BURKINA FASO: Soldiers snub government offer

Monday, December 3, 2007

Retired soldiers in Burkina Faso have rejected a government bid to ease grievances over pensions and other working conditions – complaints that recently triggered military protests and threats of violence.

The government is offering in part jobs in the civil service to retiring soldiers.

“We have rejected the government’s propositions,” Clement Ouedraogo, head of a group of aggrieved retired soldiers, told IRIN on 28 November just after the government announced new measures for the military. “We say it’s our demands or nothing.”

Active and former soldiers have been demanding a five-year increase in the retirement age, back pay for recently retired soldiers and increased pensions to reflect the cost of living.

About 45 days after the latest military demonstrations government officials told reporters on 28 November that they would offer retiring military contractual jobs in the civil service or start-up funds for farming or animal husbandry projects.

Government officials said 2,700 civil service jobs would be available for retired military in addition to their pensions.

“We are making these proposals in the hope that [the military] will see that it is in their interest,” Defence Minister Yero Boly told reporters.

But former military official Ouedraogo said the government’s offer “insults our intelligence”.

“They cannot cheat the military,” he said. “We’re going to react.”

“We have our strategy,” he added, without giving details of if or when the active military might act.

Defence Minister Boly told reporters, “What is important is to restore discipline in the army.”

In October about 100 soldiers poured into the streets of the capital, Ouagadougou, threatening to use force if their demands were not met.

Following unrest in the security forces in December 2006 that resulted in several hours of street fighting in central Ouagadougou, the army, defence ministry and representatives of soldiers set up a committee to study soldiers’ complaints. Talks broke down earlier this year.

Burkina Faso has seen five military coups since independence from France in 1960. President Blaise Compaore came to power in a coup in 1987 and retained power in elections in 1991, 1998 and 2005.



Source: IRIN