BURKINA FASO: Cost of living coalition threatens more action

Friday, March 21, 2008

A coalition of civil society organisations that on Saturday mobilised several thousand people to take to the streets of Ouagadougou and other towns and cities in Burkina Faso has threatened a nationwide strike if the government does not find a way to lower prices.

“If the government does not listen to this new appeal we are going to continue our actions until it understands that there is popular discontent,” said Tollé Sagnon, the secretary general of the Confédération Générale des Travailleurs du Burkina (CGTB), the main union in Burkina Faso and a member of the coalition.

The coalition said in a statement that the government must increases public sector salaries by 25 percent, reduce prices on basic goods and cut taxes on fuel.

Otherwise it will call for a two-day nationwide strike on 8 and 9 April.

The government says it has already taken moves to reduce taxes and released thousands of tons of emergency food stocks onto markets to control prices. Nonetheless sacks of corn are selling in Burkina Faso for double the price they were the same time last year, setting back impoverished Burkinabe 15,000 CFA francs (US$30) a sack compared to 7,500 CFA francs (US$15), according to food monitors.

Thousands of people chanting "life is expensive" marched on Saturday in the Burkina Faso capital Ouagadougou and similar demonstrations took place in other towns around the country.

Previous cost of living marches in Burkina Faso in February turned violent and resulted in hundreds of arrests, but Saturday’s demonstrations passed off peacefully and no-one was arrested.

The demonstrators were responding to an appeal last week made by trade unions, anti-corruption groups and human rights associations calling for a national coalition to pressure the government to reduce inflation in the country.

“In our country the population is hungry and thirsty”, the coalition said in a declaration.

Burkina Faso has been faced with frequent social unrest which has sometimes turned violent over the last two years. In December 2006, protesting soldiers fired their guns in the air and clashed with police, demanding better living conditions and “an end to corruption and favouritism among army top officials”.

Since then, retired soldiers have frequently protested their conditions.

Source: IRIN