Strikes and protests turn violent in Côte d’Ivoire

Peaceful Assembly and Expression

In its latest analysis of the human rights situation in Côte d’Ivoire, Amnesty International reported severe restrictions on freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. The government exercises tight control over any form of opposition and dissent and state laws curtail and criminalise demonstrations and protests, even peaceful ones. Though it has one of the most prosperous economies in West Africa, there is gross socioeconomic inequality in Côte d’Ivoire, which has contributed to unrest, instability and uncertainty. 

Early 2017 began with multiple protests taking place, primarily in the capital - but also in other cities - as military personnel staged a two-day mutiny, demanding additional bonuses. Four people were killed and the main port was closed during the standoff. The government condemned the mutiny, shifting the blame to the media. The police subsequently arrested six journalists, including three media outlet owners, claiming that the media were inciting revolt within the military. The editors and owners of the independent media outlets - L’Inter and SoirInfo - and the opposition newspapers - Le Temps and Notre Voie were held for several days and then released, thanks to the lobbying efforts of UNI Global affiliate SYNAPPCI in Cote D`Ivoire, which commented on the release, stating:

"SYNAPPCI welcomes the release of the six Journalists but demands that all charges against them should be dropped. This is an issue of the freedom of the press."

At the end of January, teachers across the country held a two-week strike, petitioning for an increase in pay and pensions. In Bouake, scores of schoolchildren went out into the streets in solidarity with the teachers' strike. The police used tear gas in Abidjan to disperse the hundreds of students demonstrating their support for the teachers' strike. 

On 11th November 2016, the government declared "illegal" the actions of civil servants who went on strike over a rise in the retirement age and a decrease in the value of pensions. The strike was later called off in January in hopes of entering into negotiations with the government. 

In a separate incident on 16th November 2016, the death of a young man during his arrest led to clashes between youth and police officers in Yamoussoukro.