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Burkina Faso Protesters Call for General Strike

Tens of thousands of people in cities across Burkina Faso have taken to the streets demanding government action to reverse escalating prices. As VOA's Nico Colombant reports from our regional bureau in Dakar, they also called for a general strike next month.

In the capital Ouagadougou, a group of students chanted in the ethnic Mossi language More, demanding government action to lower prices.

They reprised the song in French, singing there is nothing to eat anymore, no rice and no corn. They sang that they woke up early, and are standing in the streets, because they want change.

A journalist covering the event, Zoumana Wonogo, said police were at every major intersection, but the protest was well organized and peaceful.

Another journalist, who was taking part in the march, explained why it was necessary. "Life in Burkina Faso is very difficult. Goods are expensive. Government does not do anything to help citizens. It is why we decided to go on the road and to protest against this way of life in Burkina Faso," he said.

A freelance translator who makes about $200 a month said people in Burkina Faso feel the government bears responsibility for the situation. "It has to take appropriate measure to just help the people to get the goods and some services at acceptable prices. The trade unions are demanding an increase of salaries of the workers and to reduce the prices of goods on the market, and also to try to achieve good governance," he said.

The protest ended with union leaders demanding the government raise salaries, lower prices on basic goods and gasoline, and also help students.

They also called for a general strike on April 8 and 9.

Protestors Saturday also called on the government to release opposition activist Thibault Nana. He was sentenced to three years in jail for organizing protests that turned violent in February. Dozens of others were also sentenced to between one and three years in jail following those protests.

Saturday's organizers also called on the government to shed light on the still unexplained 1998 death of investigative journalist Norbert Zongo.

Similar protests took place in other cities across the country.

The price for basic goods like cooking salt and oil has nearly doubled since last year, while the cost of a bag of rice or cereal has also soared.

President Blaise Compaore has been in power since a bloody coup in 1987. He has turned Burkina Faso into one of the region's most stable nations, but it still suffers from widespread poverty.