Public sector offices in Burundi were mostly closed on Tuesday as government workers as well as shop owners went on strike to protest against high living costs after the government more than doubled prices of electricity and water.
Unions organised the strike after the government refused their demands to reverse a 124 percent rise in electricity charges in the central African nation and a 266 percent increase in water tariffs, imposed last September.
"Through this strike, we want the government to understand that public workers and all Burundians are seriously affected by the high cost of living," said Tharcisse Gahungu, chairman of the Confederation of Trade Unions (Cosybu).
"Prices of food and other essential commodities are very high, and the situation was worsened by the high costs of water and electricity."
Annual inflation in Burundi hit 22 percent in February 2012, driven up by housing, water and energy costs.
The housing, water and energy index increased by 37.6 percent in the year to February, from 32.6 percent in January.
Gahungu said the strike was also a way of expressing anger at hundreds of senior government officials who do not pay income tax despite being on high salaries.
The country's president, his two deputies, ministers, lawmakers and other officials appointed by the president through decree are exempted from income tax.
In January, parliament rejected a bill requiring hundreds of holders of public office to pay tax, defying a proposal by the president to end the exemption.
" Burundi like other nations in the world is affected by the world financial crisis. Prices of fuel and other imported materials are very high, and this has an impact on the country's economy," said government spokesman, Philippe Nzobonariba.
"The solution to the high cost of living is not to stay home."