Monday, March 31, 2008

Food Price Protests

People across West Africa, and elsewhere in the world, have taken to the streets to protest price hikes in fuel, staple foods and other basic necessities.

A crackdown by police against Senegalese citizens who gathered in the capital Dakar on 30 March to protest the high cost of living was “brutal”, say human rights groups. Police used tear gas and batons to disperse a demonstration organised by the national consumers' union to protest recent hikes in the prices of rice, oil and soap. Security forces also allegedly brutalised journalists and confiscated cameramen’s video.

The Dakar-based African human rights coalition RADDHO (Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme) said in a statement on 30 March that it firmly condemns "unspeakable" acts by security forces which "violate" people's rights. It likened alleged beatings with electric prods to "torture" and called for an investigation into "all acts of violence and poor treatment suffered by demonstrators".

"The interior ministry or at least the police force believe that maintaining order means stepping up repression," Leonard Vincent, Africa director of the Paris-based group Reporters Without Borders

Opposition political leader Abdoulaye Bathily recently told reporters that rising poverty and a disregard for human rights has made Senegal "a bomb that could explode at any moment."
At least a dozen protestors in COTE D'IVOIRE were wounded during several hours of clashes with police on 31 March as they demanded government action to curb food prices.
The demonstrations took place in Cocody, where Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo has a residence, and in Yopougon, a thriving area for shopping and nightlife. Ivorian police used tear gas and batons to disperse protestors who were burning tires and overturning parked cars.
At the height of the demonstration, before riot police started firing tear gas, IRIN saw around 1,500 protestors chanting “we are hungry” and “life is too expensive, you are going to kill us.”
A kilo of beef has increased from 700 CFA (US$1.68) to 900 CFA (US$2.16) in just three days One litre of oil has increased from 600 CFA (US$1.44) to 850 CFA (US$2.04) in the same time.
“We only eat once during the day now,” said another protestor, Alimata Camara. “If food prices increase more, what will we give our children to eat and how will they go to school?”
Elsewhere , in Cameroon protests against food prices in late February turned violent and in Burkina Faso this year there have been food riots in all the major towns in the country in which hundreds of protestors have been arrested. In Mauritania the high price of imported wheat and rice products brought people onto the streets in late 2007.

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