Social unrest in response to new law inhibiting certain public sectors' right to strike

Peaceful Assembly

On 28th December 2017, Benin's Parliament passed a law restricting select public sector workers' right to strike, including those in the health, justice, and defense and security sectors. In addition, Article 20 of the Law on the Statute of the Judiciary - approved on 2nd January - withdraws magistrates' right to strike. The government justified the restrictions, stating that these sectors are considered "sensitive" to the well-functioning of the society. Since the law was adopted, trade unions have organised strikes in the affected sectors. On 4th January 2018, Union nationale des magistrats du Bénin (National Union of Magistrates) announced a five-day strike starting from 8th January. Other trade unions followed suit, and seven trade unions called for a general strike on 17th January to demand that the government revoke the restrictions. Several trade unions in the higher education sector also announced a 72-hour strike from 16th January to 18th January. At the time of writing, negotiations between the government and the unions had been stalled with the parties unable to reach an agreement

On 9th February 2018, police officers arrested nine student leaders on the campus of the University of Abomey-Calavi in Cotonou. The nine were arrested for protesting against the increase in enrollment fees. After a 72-hour strike from 6th February to 8th February, launched by three student unions, including Bureau national de l’Union National des Scolaires et Etudiants du Bénin (National Office of the National Union of Students of Benin). The Confédération syndicale des travailleurs du Bénin (Trade Union Confederation of Workers in Benin) denounced the arrests of the student leaders and called for their immediate release and for the state to protect citizens’ right to freedom of peaceful assembly. The students were released on 13th February. A new 72-hour student strike was organised from 13th February. 

On 23rd January 2018, Front pour le sursaut patriotique protested in Cotonou to denounce President Patrice Talon's governance and rule over the country. The protesters were blocked by police barricades as they insisted on following their own protest route, instead of the route prescribed by the administrative authorities. Despite some alleged intimidation by security officers, the protesters were able to proceed peacefully.

On 20th February 2018, a strong police presence around la Bourse du Travail in Cotonou prevented a women’s march from taking place. The protest, organised by Comité national des revendeurs, vendeurs et artisans du Bénin (National Committee of Sellers, Vendors and Craftspeople of Benin), gathered between 200 and 300 women to denounce the socio-economic conditions in the country. Although the protest was authorised, the administrative authorities prohibited them from taking their planned route to the Presidency, proposing instead another route to the Ministry of Social Affairs, which the protesters refused to follow. After being surrounded by security forces, the organisers suspended the march, declaring that they would march another day. 

Expression

Wilfried Codo and Emmanuelle Sodji, two journalists from TV5 Monde, were allegedly attacked and detained on 23rd January 2018 for  filming a strike organised by trade unions in the country over government decisions on the right to strike, as detailed in the section under Peaceful Assembly. The Court of First Instance of Cotonou later released the two after a hearing.