Friday, March 14, 2008

Ouagadougou news: The courts are free! Demonstrators get plenty of time to contemplate how free they are!

While writing my little rant about the Millennium Challenge Corporation yesterday, I forgot to relay the news that a court in Ouagadougou has sentenced opposition party leader and rabble-rouser Nana Thibault to three years in prison for inciting the Feb. 28 riots that shut down Ouagadougou. He’s just one of 45 people who received jail sentences.

Thibault and the others can appeal. While the administration of Blaise Compaore has not really commented on the case – the courts are independent and out of the realm of control, people claim – the harsh sentence came as somewhat of a surprise (at least to me). The simpleton in me claims there’s always the idea that the government needs to make an example out of someone. Or, perhaps the state is opening the doors for a pardon of some sort. Or, perhaps they wanted to make a martyr.

(For those who care: Here is what the U.S. Dept. of State thinks about Burkina Faso’s alleged constitutionally independent court system.)

In other news, unions plan to hold a peaceful march tomorrow (Saturday, March 15).

From Agence France Presse:

A court in Burkina Faso has jailed 45 people, including an opposition politician, for between one and three years for protests over the cost of living, the state prosecutor said Wednesday.

A human rights group protested that not all of those charged had had access to a lawyer and an opposition lawmaker denounced the sentences as too severe.

The high court in Ouagadougou on Tuesday sentenced Thibault Nana, leader of the small opposition Democratic and Popular Rally (RDP) party, to three years in prison over the February 28 unrest, Issa Kindo told AFP.

The judges considered Nana to be the ringleader of demonstrations that led to vandalism in the capital and sentenced 44 other people who took part in the protests to a year's jail each, the prosecutor said.

They had all been accused of holding an illicit street demonstration and the destruction of public and private property, which led police initially to round up 184 people.

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