Burkina Faso: Our organisations call for calm and for the authorities to respect their democratic commitments

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Ouagadougou, Paris, 30 October 2014 FIDH and MBDHP condemn the violence that occurred this morning in Burkina Faso and call on protesters and security forces to restore calm and maintain peace. Information gathered by our organisations shows that thousands of protesters opposing the bill for a review of article 37 of the Constitution, have stormed the National Assembly, vandalized and looted its premises, as well as those of Burkina’s Radio-Television (RTB), which can no longer transmit signal.

«This situation is extremely worrying and we fear that it will degenerate into serious human rights violations. The tensions created within Burkinabe society by the government’s announcement are high, including among the young people who have known no other regime than that of Compaoré’s»said MBDHP President, Chrysogone Zougmoré.

On 21 October, the Government emerged from a c-abinet meeting- to announce the launch of a bill to review article 37 of Burkina Faso’s Constitution in order to override the limitation on presidential terms to allow Blaise Compaoré, in power since 1987, to run for a fifth term in 2015. This bill was due to be examined today by the National Assembly. FIDH and the MBDHP condemn this constitutional revision as a contravention of Burkina Faso’s international obligations. Moreover, we remind the Government that the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, ratified by the Burkina in 2010, provides sanctions in case of “[a]ny amendment or revision of the constitution or legal instruments, which is an infringement on the principles of democratic change of government” (Article 23).

« In a push to maintain power at the cost of a new Constitutional revision, Blaise Compaoré, who has ruled Burkina for the last 27 years, is reneging on his commitments. Indeed, in making this proposal only a few months before the presidential elections, he also breaks the commitment of the Burkinabe State to both the African Union and to CEDEAO. There is still time to turn back. The Burkinabe vote must count », said FIDH Vice-President, Drissa Traoré.

The government announcement has been followed by vehement protests, especially by political opposition parties and civil society. On Tuesday, 28 October, a demonstration gathered thousands of participants opposed to the bill in Ouagadougou. It ended in numerous confrontations between the police and protesters.

The announcement of school closures for the week further testifies to the high levels of social tension in the country, amplified by the declarations of some political leaders. “If one activist’s house is burned in your town, in your area, then we should no longer be able to find an opposition leaders’ house standing”, declared Assimi Kouanda, leader of the presidential party, on Saturday, 25 October. “If someone dares to touch one of your mothers or sisters, one of your fathers or older brothers, […] this person will never touch anyone else again”, he told provincial leaders. Our organisations condemn such declarations and call on both the authorities and protesters to show restraint.

« My Vote Must Count »
Fifty-two elections are scheduled to take place in Africa between 2014 and 2016, including 25 Presidential elections. In at least 6 countries, concerns have been raised over proposals to review the Constitution to allow the sitting President to renew his/her mandate. To avoid manipulation, fraud, and violence because of shorten election spans, African and International Civil Society decided to mobolise through the coalition “My Vote Must Count”. These organisations will engage in public mobilisation, field action and political advocacy before each election until 2016. -Civil Society across Africa and internationally demand tha governmento respect their citizen legitimate right to freely choose their representatives through safe, transparent, free, fair and peaceful elections.

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