Statement by the Francophone Trade Union Committee for Education and Training on the occasion of the International Francophonie Day March 20, 2021

published 19 March 2021 updated 6 April 2021

A Francophonie in action for peace, democracy, rights and freedoms.

On this day, which brings together Francophones from around the world around common values, the Francophone Syndicate Committee for Education and Training (CSFEF) has decided to focus on democracy and freedoms. Indeed, many declarations and publications by the International Organization of the Francophonie (OIF) mention these essential principles in the construction of the Francophone space.

Thus, during the 46th United Nations Human Rights Session on February 22, OIF Secretary General Louise Mushikiwabo declared: "The Francophonie is strongly committed to the promotion of rights and freedoms. We hold this mandate from the will of the Member States which adopted the Bamako Declaration in November 2000”. She also added that while progress could be made, “we must collectively recognize that the fight for human rights and fundamental freedoms remains pressing.”

The OIF supports civil society, notably through the 84 INGOs and 43 accredited NGOs, and the INGO conference has a peace, democracy and human rights commission, of which the CSFEF is a member.

The CSFEF wanted to see on the ground the reality of the application of all these principles to which the Member States have adhered by joining the OIF. The testimonies gathered from education trade unionists, human rights activists are edifying.

In Djibouti, freedom of expression is a constant struggle, as are all fundamental rights. The public authorities do not tolerate any trade union, any opposition. Every day, the Djiboutian Human Rights League reports with specific examples, there are arbitrary arrests and imprisonments for expressing an opinion that displeases the government.

The situation in Haiti is dramatic, the government acts through terror by supporting armed gangs which attack trade unions in particular. Opponents of the regime or ordinary citizens suspected of supporting them are attacked at home and stripped of their property. Large popular demonstrations denounce the corruption which embezzles public money, in particular that dedicated to education.

In the Central African Republic, the majority of the country is not controlled by the central state, the rebellion proliferates in the face of a worn-out regime which is supported by foreign powers, including France. The rich mineral resources of the country do not benefit the population.

In Senegal, a country deemed stable, demonstrations aimed at demanding more democracy in the electoral process were violently repressed. Teachers, suspected of pushing their students into the street, have been arrested, in their schools, in their classes. Civil society reacted by denouncing these false accusations and calling for the release of those unjustly imprisoned.

In Niger, the elections were held recently but tensions are still high. There are kidnappings and ethnic killings. The President of the Republic is supported by the international community as Nigerien civil society denounces the arbitrary arrests and imprisonment of opposition leaders.

The people of Chad feel forgotten, yet serious things are happening. Hundreds of people were arrested during the election period, an opposition candidate was violently arrested by the police at his home on the pretext of “Defamation of the president's wife", his mother was killed. Others withdrew their candidacy for the presidential election. The current president is seeking a sixth term while there is a two-term limit in the Constitution to the detriment of the population. The school system is failing because teachers are suffering from salary cuts. Students flee the country to study in Cameroon. This is a real mess.

These few testimonials are unfortunately not exhaustive. They are accompanied by a pressing demand from the OIF and influential countries like France to stop supporting regimes that are discredited with their populations.

The CSFEF urges the OIF to work more for, as it writes in its document on democracy, "to entrench rights and freedoms, promote equality between women and men, and protect the actors of democracy and human rights”. The OIF has a tool, the Bamako Declaration signed in November 2000, which constitutes a strong commitment from the States. In each serious breach of democratic principles, the OIF is justified in intervening and above all it must support and defend the men and women who fight in their countries to ensure  that democratic commitments are kept.

Our colleagues intervened in French, this beautiful language that brings us together, which allows us to share our difficulties and our hopes across borders. It is a call for solidarity and action that is launched on this International Francophonie Day and we all hope that it will be followed with effects.