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Kwasi ADU-AMANKWAH :

One of the effective and genuine ways to tackle poverty and inequality in Africa is to consistently implement state-driven public services delivery programmes and not to privatize them.

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In Benin, the government is cracking down on a teachers’ strike: Protest letter to the President of the Republic of BENIN

This article is only available in French
28/03/2012 

Mr. President,

On behalf of all workers affiliated to the African Regional Organisation of the
International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC-Africa), I want to protest vigorously
against the way your government is dealing with the current strike of teachers in your
country. The information we receive shows that, currently, the order of the day is the
radiation of strikers, the stifling of freedom of expression, and arrests of trade
unionists.

PDF - 273.7 kb
Protest letter in pdf format

On Tuesday 20 March, Mr. Ganiou YESSOUFOU and his wife, who are professors at the
Collège d’enseignement Général of the Akpakpa district of Cotonou, were arrested for
violating the ban on meetings at the workplace. After pressure from the workers, they
were released at 23 pm the same day. On Wednesday 21 March, 14 teachers of the
Collège d’enseignement général "L’entente" of Cotonou were, on orders of the
Director, beaten and detained for observing the sit-in strike. They were released three
hours later, after strong protests from students and unions.

That same Wednesday, two union officials were arrested in the city of Abomey for
having had exchanges on following up to the ongoing strike with their colleagues. Their
names are Jules AMOUSSOUGA and Cécil AYADOKOUN.
All these events occurred against the background of the intransigent attitude of the
Beninese authorities vis-à-vis the teachers’ strike. While these public sector workers
did nothing but defend their legitimate rights, your government responded with rarely
seen repression, regardless of the fact that in the process, many fundamental rights
are violated.

At a special meeting on Wednesday 14 March, the Council of Ministers, under your
Presidency, decided among other things:

- The systematic removal from the Beninese public sector of all teachers who
"continue the walkouts".

- The suspension from their functions, followed by the systematic removal of all
officials in positions of authority, who would thus be "guilty of gross negligence
by going on strike".

- The removal of teachers who “think up or are guilty of abandonment of service."

- The opening of registration centers in all the garrison houses for registration of
candidates for the teaching profession, where you expect, among others, "conscripts to military service [...] with a teacher’s profile" (sic).
Furthermore, the Council of Ministers banned all demonstrations and strike actions,
mainly on the grounds of a decision of the Constitutional Court, ie that it would
constitute discrimination and would therefore be illegal.
Mr. President, the situation described above is completely unacceptable to the light of
fundamental rights of workers in Benin and worldwide. Expulsion as public sector
workers on strike, their replacement by other workers (in this case, even military
conscripts) or the prohibition of a strike are grave breaches C87 (on Liberty
Association) and C98 (on the bargaining) and the Benin Constitution which recognizes
and guarantees the right to strike. The right to strike is also guaranteed and protected
by the jurisprudence of ILO supervisory bodies such as the Committee of Experts on
the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR), the Committee on
Freedom of Association (CFA) and the Committee on the Application of Standards
(CAS). In addition, as a member of the ILO and a signatory to the abovementioned
Conventions, Benin has an obligation to preserve and promote the rights and
principles enshrined therein.

We urge you to immediately stop the harassment, intimidation and arrests of strikers and trade unionists, and to ensure that the teachers’ strike can take place under normal circumstances and that workers who participate in it are not fired and replaced anymore. It is essential to the social peace in Benin that its workers can safely exercise their legitimate trade union rights, free from fear of persecution or reprisal. The current situation is not worthy of a country like Benin and we will not hesitate to expose it more on the international scene if the fundamental rights of its workers are not respected.

Kwasi Adu-Amankwah

General Secretary

PDF - 273.7 kb
Protest letter in pdf format
              
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