Thursday, March 13, 2008


Burkina Faso's trade unions and their allies have called for "march-rallies" this Saturday across the country, which is one of the world's poorest, to protest "against high prices, corruption and fraud."

Over recent weeks, prices of goods have risen between 10 and 65 percent in Burkina Faso. Chrizogome Zougmonré, president of the Burkinabé Movement for Human and People's Rights, a non-governmental organisation based in Ouagadougou notes that some citizens have resorted to desperate measures to survive, being “obliged to rummage in dustbins for food, to chase pigs (and) dogs around dustbins…”

Protests last month resulted in a violence and numerous arrests.

Those earlier protests erupted in Ouagadougou and the economic capital Bobo-Dioulasso and sparked similar unrest in other Burkinabe towns, including Banfora and Ouahigouya, which lasted for two days.

Attacks on public buildings, the barricading of roads with burning tires and stone throwing by protesters led to the closure of stores, markets, banks and offices.

In all, 184 persons were arrested during those protests. The blog Africa Flak reports one of those detained in Ouagadougou was Nana Thibaut, the leader of a small opposition party, who originally organized the one-day protests. Nana was accused of “sedition” for having called on the destruction of property, government spokesman Philipe Sawadogo said.

On March 3 the state-owned newspaper Sidwaya reported that 29 persons had already been sentenced to between three and 36 months in prison in Bobo-Dioulasso, less than two weeks after the strikes had occurred.

AFP reports today a court in Burkina Faso jailed 45 people, including Nana, for between one and three years for protests over the cost of living.

The trials have raised the concerns of human rights advocates and opposition politicians. It is alleged that amongst other abuses those charged were denied proper legal counsel.

"This is not normal," Philippe Ouédraogo, leader of the African Independence Party and head of the G14, which includes other opposition parties said. "Everybody's constitutional rights must be respected, above all by the state,"

Ouédraogo also accused the police forces of "exaggerating" the number of protesters and having arrested many people in the streets at random.

There were also reports of abuse of those who had been arrested.

"We were told a while ago that there would have been cases of torture amongst the persons detained after the damages of the 28th of February," Zougmonré told IPS.

"We have checked and it seems there were relatively serious abuses of certain detainees," he added.

The people, however, are apparently not cowed by the repression.

One of those groups helping to organize the Saturday march is The Organization of Democratic Youth of Burkina (ODJ). A statement from the group says the policy of "privatizing everything" is one of the reasons for the disastrous economic situation in the country. The group charges, in addition, that embezzlement, corruption, lack of justice, mismanagement and repression goes on day after day under the current government. It says that the country's youth experience illiteracy, lack of training and unemployment. "That is why the Organization of Democratic Youth of Burkina (ODJ), on the initiative of the central trade unions and independent unions in our country, has agreed to the formation of a national coalition against the high cost of living." ODJ has called on all the youth in Burkina, young workers, unemployed youth, peasants, students, and artists, to take to the streets on Saturday.

It'll take guts.

The following is taken from Relief Web.

Burkina Faso: New protests against high food prices planned

OUAGADOUGOU, 13 March 2008 (IRIN) - A newly formed coalition against the cost of living formed by workers' unions, consumer associations and human rights groups in Burkina Faso is planning to march in the capital Ouagadougou on 15 March.

The new coalition will also denounce corruption and fraud that its members say they believe are underlying massive price hikes for food in the country.

"We want to set up a larger front against these scourges and I think it will send a strong signal to the government," Laurent Ouédraogo, the chairman of the Confédération Nationale des Travailleurs du Burkina (CNTB) and a member of the coalition said.

"We want to appeal to the government over its role, the decisions it needs to take in this situation, and the attitude it must adopt in such an emergency moment," he said.

"The war against fraud, corruption, is now part of our fight because these are the reasons that prices have skyrocketed. Since 2001, we have drawn the government's attention on rampant corruption and I think the government is going to listen to us now", Ouédraogo added.

The coalition's announcement coincided with the sentencing on 13 March of another 45 people who turned out to protest hyperinflation in Burkina Faso in February to prison sentences, among them Thibault Nana the alleged mastermind of the protests.

The 44 protestors were sentenced to 12 months, while Nana, who is also chairman of the Rassemblement Démocratique et Populaire (RDP), a small opposition party, received three years. Nana had denied he was behind the violence for which he was arrested. Another 109 protesters were acquitted.

Some 29 people have also been sentenced from three to 36 months at Bobo Dioulasso, following violent protests on 20-21 February against high living costs.

Chrizogone Zougmonré, the secretary general of the Movement Burkinabè des Droits de l'Homme et des Peuples (MBDHP), the main human rights NGO in the country said the MBDHP "deplores the lack of fair justice" for the arrested people, arguing that the accused did not have a chance to retain lawyers.

He accused the government of having sentenced the demonstrators to intimidate others not to protest. "It is not in our role to lobby for light sentences but in this particular case, the justice has imposed a stiff sentence," he said.

Food prices have increased sharply in Burkina Faso this year, with bags of cereal twice as expensive this year as last according to regional food monitors.

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