Burkina women march for peace amid running protests

OUAGADOUGOU — Thousands of women demonstrated for peace Saturday in Burkina Faso’s capital, where the regime has for several months faced waves of protests over police brutality and the high cost of living.

The march in central Ouagadougou organised by a collective of women’s groups did not lead to violence.

President Blaise Compaore, in power since 1987, has for several months been confronted with protests across the country that started following the death under murky circumstances of a student while in police custody.

Saturday’s demonstrators, estimated at several thousand according to an AFP correspondent, were surrounded by security forces and wore a white scarf or headband as a sign of peace.

At the end of the march, a group leader, Hortense Lougue, read a statement addressed to Compaore, decrying “the serious violation” of their rights since the unrest began.

Demands for better pay prompted mutiny in the army and police who in some cases turned on the population, looting shops and aimlessly firing bullets that killed several unarmed people.

In response to brutality by the mutineers, some residents of the capital set fire to public buildings.

Lougue said that “they had witnessed and been the victims of shameless and excessive acts” by the various demonstrators.

In Po, a town in the south of the country that was previously affected by mutineers, soldiers travelling on motorbikes sporadically fired in the air on Saturday but caused no major disruption, witnesses told AFP in Ouagadougou.

A soldier based in Po contacted by AFP said the soldiers fired their weapon for “internal reasons”, without offering further detail.

Lougue, in her statement, denounced “the impunity that encourages certain citizens to trample the rights of the most vulnerable, the violence inflicted on women and girls”.

Her statement also noted the high cost of living.

Compaore has scrambled to quell the social anger prompted by the protests.

He fired army and police chiefs and formed a new government, naming himself defence minister, while promising subsidies on basic commodities and other urgent measures.

A total of 12 people have been killed since the protests began, some during a crackdown by security personelle.
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