Monday, March 17, 2008

Soaring prices bring out protesters across Burkina Faso; General strike urged

I heard an estimate that 20,000 marched peacefully Saturday in Ouagadougou. I still have not heard about other cities.

One observer pointed out that the difference between Saturday’s marches and the violent protests from a few weeks back that sacked four cities in Burkina Faso could easily be summed up simple fact of their make up: Saturday’s marches were organized by unions and attended by working people; the previous riots were carried out by those without work. Make that young people without work.

From Agence France Presse:

"We call on workers to strike for 48 hours, from Wednesday April 8 to midnight April 9 throughout the country," said Tole Sagnon, secretary general of the main union, the General Confederation of Labour in Burkina (CGT-B).

The declaration signed by the leaders of six unions and some 15 independent organisations was read by Sagnon following a peaceful demonstration in Ouagadougou over high prices, corruption and fraud in one of the world's poorest countries.

Similar marches, conducted with the permission of authorities, were held in some six cities around the nation drawing tens of thousands of people to the streets, local residents told AFP.

"I'm demonstrating because the cost of living is too high. We do not want to attack the government... but everything is too expensive today.. people do not even have enough to eat," said Passeba Moyemga, a shoe salesman, who joined the protest march in the capital.

Some nice local color from Voice of America:

In the capital Ouagadougou, a group of students chanted in the ethnic Mossi language More, demanding government action to lower prices.

They reprised the song in French, singing there is nothing to eat anymore, no rice and no corn. They sang that they woke up early, and are standing in the streets, because they want change.

A journalist covering the event, Zoumana Wonogo, said police were at every major intersection, but the protest was well organized and peaceful.

Another journalist, who was taking part in the march, explained why it was necessary. "Life in Burkina Faso is very difficult. Goods are expensive. Government does not do anything to help citizens. It is why we decided to go on the road and to protest against this way of life in Burkina Faso," he said.

A freelance translator who makes about $200 a month said people in Burkina Faso feel the government bears responsibility for the situation. "It has to take appropriate measure to just help the people to get the goods and some services at acceptable prices. The trade unions are demanding an increase of salaries of the workers and to reduce the prices of goods on the market, and also to try to achieve good governance," he said.

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