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General strike in Burkina Faso over fuel prices hike

General strike in Burkina Faso over fuel prices hike

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Several thousand people took the streets of Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou on Thursday as workers downed tools in a nationwide strike over higher fuel prices.

Petrol and diesel prices have shot up 12 percent over the past three weeks, sparking a wave of protest.

A grassroots group, the National Coalition Against Costly Living (CCVC), called the strike and protest, with a march from the chamber of commerce to the trade ministry in the heart of the capital of this West African country.

“No to the impoverishment of the citizens” read one of the slogans alongside others reading: “Bread and freedom for the people”.

“Enough is enough,” said civil servant Charles Coulibaly, 42.

“We can’t get by on what we make, and now they’re raising fuel prices, which will have the knock-on effect of making all products and services more expensive.”

Another marcher, 36-year-old bookseller Prosper Zebango, expressed exasperation.

“Raising the price of petrol and diesel just when the price of a barrel was decreasing and justifying it with a so-called international increase?” he asked rhetorically.

“I think the government is showing incompetence.”

Since reaching four-year highs in October, world oil prices have plunged around 30 percent as worries about falling demand in a slowing world economy have taken their toll.

In Burkina Faso, petrol and diesel prices have risen 12 percent since November 9, with a litre now costing 75 CFA francs (0.11 euros/$0.12), the equivalent of 47 US cents a gallon.

The protesters handed a list of demands to Trade Minister Harouna Kabore, who promised to relay them to the prime minister.

In addition to the revocation of the fuel price hike, they are also demanding the scrapping of a bill that would curtail the right to strike, according to CCVC vice president Chrisogone Zougmore.

“We are all fighting for improved living conditions for workers and people in general,” Zougmore said.

The government cited rising fuel prices on international markets to justify the increase, as well as a need for increased revenue to fight jihadists operating in the restive north and east of the country.

The former French colony, among the world’s poorest countries, has suffered jihadist attacks since 2015 that have claimed 229 lives, according to the last official toll published in late September.

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