New protests against high food prices planned

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. 

bo/nr