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TITLE:  CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993
DATE:  JANUARY 31, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

                    CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC


The Central African Republic (C.A.R.), ruled since 1981 by a 
military regime under General Andre Dieudonne Kolingba, made a 
peaceful transition from a military regime to a democratically 
elected Government.  On September 19, citizens elected 
Ange-Felix Patasse, head of the Movement for the Liberation of 
the Central African People (MLPC), President, and a new 
National Assembly representing multiple political parties and 
viewpoints.  Despite General Kolingba's last-minute efforts to 
subvert the process, and notwithstanding several incidents that 
marred the voting, an 80-person international observer 
delegation certified the validity of the outcome.  In the 
National Assembly elections, the new President's party, the 
MLPC, did not gain a majority, winning only 33 of the 85 seats, 
while the Confederation of Democratic Forces (CFD) coalition 
gained 25 seats, and Kolingba's Central African Democratic 
Assembly party (RDC) won 14 seats.  The National Assembly 
convened on November 8 and elected Hugues Dodozendi of the MLPC 
as president of its Executive Bureau.  Besides Dodozendi, 5 
other MLPC members hold seats in the 11-member Executive 
Bureau.  The other five seats are held by members of five 
different opposition parties.

The military and the national gendarmerie, under the Ministry 
of Defense, share internal security responsibilities with the 
civilian police force, under the direction of the Ministry of 
Public Security.  The Presidential Security Guard has been 
commanded by Central African officers since mid-1993, when 
French officers and trainers were relegated to advisory roles.  
There were two serious incidents of military unrest in 1993 
over nonpayment of salaries, resulting in two short-lived 
mutinies and scattered human rights abuses.  However, the 
comportment of security forces during the preelectoral period 
and the elections was professional.

The C.A.R. is a landlocked and sparsely populated country, most 
of whose inhabitants practice subsistence agriculture.  Its 
principal exports are coffee, cotton, timber, tobacco, and 
diamonds.  Economic structural reforms begun in 1992 in 
cooperation with international donors have had little success 
because of unfavorable world economic trends and government 
corruption and mismanagement.  There were sweeping public 
strikes over the issues of salary arrears and the pace of 
political reform.  However, following the October installation 
of the new President, the strikes ended, and public sector 
personnel, including teachers and doctors, returned to the 
workplace.


The human rights situation improved markedly as the year 
progressed, culminating in the democratic elections and the 
installation of a new Government on October 22.  However, 
efforts by the Kolingba regime to halt the political reform 
process and two military mutinies resulted in a number of human 
rights abuses, including the killing of one person and the 
deaths of two others under uncertain circumstances.  Police 
beatings of some detainees continued, and the Government is not 
known to have punished those responsible.  Other human rights 
abuses included continuing discrimination and violence against 
women and discrimination against Pygmies.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

Following a peaceful march on the Treasury by civil servants 
demanding pay, lawless elements of the population looted the 
downtown area as well as the market area west of town.  
Security forces used excessive force in containing these 
antigovernment riots on April 26 and 27, during which three 
persons died.

On May 15, the Presidential Guard mutinied, and a member of the 
Guard shot and killed a woman whose car was commandeered.  
While the Prime Minister stated that the soldier responsible 
would face criminal charges, the Kolingba government took no 
action against him.

The Government did not honor its pledge to conduct an inquest 
into the 1990 killing by security forces of Pierra Wanga nor 
its pledge to release a report on the 1992 beating death of 
opposition activist Jean-Claude Conjugo at the hands of 
security forces during an antigovernment demonstration.  There 
were, however, no additional incidents of this sort in 1993.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearance. 

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading
         Treatment or Punishment

Although the Penal Code prohibits torture and specifies 
sanctions for those found guilty of physical abuse, credible 
reports indicated that police beating and abuse of criminal 
suspects occurs.  In one instance, a diplomat observed security 
forces administering a public beating to a detainee.  As far as 
is known, the Government did not punish those responsible.

Prison conditions are harsh, and inmates suffered from 
extensive overcrowding until September 1, when, to celebrate 
the 12th anniversary of his taking power, President Kolingba 
issued a general amnesty, releasing thousands of prisoners from 
20 prisons, including former President (Emperor) Bokassa.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Central African law stipulates that persons detained in 
nonpolitical cases must be brought before a magistrate within 
96 hours.  In practice, this deadline is often not respected, 
in part due to inefficient judicial procedures.  Political 
detainees may be held legally without charge for up to 2 
months.  Political detainees are defined in the law as "those 
held for crimes against the security of the State."  The C.A.R. 
judicial system does not provide for bail, but persons are 
often released on their own recognizance.

The Kolingba government abandoned the practice of arresting and 
detaining labor leaders and opposition supporters as threats to 
state security.  It detained political activist Joseph 
Bendounga for part of one morning following an antigovernment 
riot and arrested Guy Mamadou Marabena of the MLPC for a brief 
period, allegedly for vandalizing the property of a political 
rival; he was released when the charges could not be 
substantiated.

The Government released in the September 1 amnesty three 
Sudanese nationals, Hafiz Abdel Galil, El Rayh Ahmed, and 
Mohammed Zein Hassan from Ngaragba prison.  They had been held 
without charges since March 1990, reportedly for refusing to 
pay a bribe to a local official.

There were no known instances of incommunicado detention, and  
there were no known political detainees held by the Government 
during the year.

Exile is not permitted by law and does not occur in practice.  
The Government repeatedly stated that any person in self-exile 
for strictly political reasons, rather than criminal, may 
return home without fear of persecution.  Several took 
advantage of this policy.  The best known remaining person in 
exile is Rodolph Iddi-Lala.  He was originally sought for 
alleged criminal as well as political activities, and it was 
not clear at year's end whether the September 1 amnesty applied 
to those wanted for, but as yet not convicted for, criminal 
offenses.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The judiciary consists of regular and military courts, with the 
Supreme Court at the apex.  In criminal cases, the accused have 
the right to legal counsel, trials are public, and defendants 
have the right to be present at their trials.  These safeguards 
are generally respected in practice, but the judiciary suffers 
numerous shortcomings, including executive interference, 
institutional neglect, inefficient administration of the law, 
and shortages of trained personnel and material resources.  The 
High Court of Justice, a body created to try political cases, 
did not convene and is virtually defunct.

President Kolingba appointed by decree a new Chief Justice to 
the Supreme Court in June, following opposition accusations 
that his predecessor was corrupt.  While it was widely assumed 
that Kolingba hoped to influence the Court through this 
appointment, the Court acquitted itself honorably in tabulating 
and proclaiming election results that led to a change of 
government.  

There were no political prisoners during 1993.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or
         Correspondence

The Government rarely abused legal prohibitions on invasion of 
the home without a warrant in civil and criminal cases.  In 
certain political and security cases, defined in Title IV of 
the Penal Code, i.e., for treason, police are statutorily 
permitted to search private property without written 
authorization and do so in practice.  The Kolingba regime 
maintained its close watch, including telephone monitoring, on 
opposition figures as the elections approached.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

There was increased official respect in 1993 for the right of 
private citizens to speak publicly about political developments 
or to criticize the Government or political parties.  In the 
election campaign, opposition leaders openly criticized the 
policies of the Government and opposition rival candidates at 
public rallies, in political broadsheets, and on the 
government-controlled national radio and television.

One newspaper and both radio and television are government 
owned and controlled.  Journalists working for these entities 
were not physically threatened, but few were permitted to offer 
dissenting points of view.  The pro-RDC Minister of 
Communication initially refused the Prime Minister's 
instructions to open the media to the opposition during the 
electoral campaign, thus violating a key provision of the 
Electoral Code, but he later relented.

During the preelectoral phase, the government media tacitly 
supported President Kolingba with ample coverage of him, his 
party, and his policies while neglecting other candidates, who 
received proportionately less print or air time to express 
their views.  Prime Minister Lakoue's Social Democratic Party 
(PSD) also received disproportionate media attention.  The 
media glossed over civil unrest and other politically relevant 
issues for much of the year.  Under the new Government, the 
media are more open and objective.  They cover opposition party 
rallies and meetings and air uncensored interviews in which 
opposition supporters and politicians are permitted to express 
their views.

Opposition parties and groups published and distributed 
manifestos and policy statements, usually in stenciled and 
photocopied form without government restriction or censorship.  
Similarly, foreign journalists were not impeded in their work.

Although a number of educators, including presidential 
candidate Abel Goumba, were actively involved in political 
activities, the University of Bangui remained on strike over 
nonpayment of teachers' salaries for most of the year, and 
issues of academic freedom were not tested.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The right of assembly is constitutionally provided for but is 
restricted by regulations.  A 1992 decree requires the 
organizers of all demonstrations and public meetings to 
register with the Government 48 hours before they occur.  In 
May the Ministry of Public Security refused to permit an 
opposition rally.  The police reportedly incited a riot the 
same month by firing tear gas into a crowd of civil servants 
who had been peacefully protesting arrears in payment of 
salaries.  However, subsequently there was no government 
interference with political campaign rallies, and candidates 
and their supporters circulated freely throughout the country.

The Government no longer enforced a 1961 law requiring all 
associations to register annually as a means of influencing the 
activities and policies of organizations opposed to the 
Government.  A 1991 law compelling all parties to register with 
the Ministry of Public Security in order to participate legally 
in the political process remained in force, but in practice it 
had little effect on the political process.  Registered 
political parties and apolitical associations were permitted to 
hold congresses, elect officials, and publicly debate policy 
issues.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

There is no state religion, and a variety of religious 
communities are active, including traditional African faiths, 
Christian denominations, and Muslims.  Religious organizations 
and missionary groups are free to proselytize, worship, and 
construct places of worship.  However, religious groups must 
register with the Government, and any group whose behavior is 
considered subversive in nature remains subject to sanctions, 
although no sanctions were imposed in 1993.

The Government lifted its 1986 ban on the activities of the 
Jehovah's Witnesses community, but there is continued ambiguity 
about the status of this group, since the document restoring 
the group's rights states that it must obey undefined relevant 
regulations and statutes.  Human rights monitors argue that the 
ban was unconstitutional in the first place.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

People are free to move within the country, but police and 
other officials sometimes harass travelers unwilling or unable 
to pay bribes at checkpoints along major intercity roads and at 
major Bangui intersections.  The Government has not taken 
effective measures to eliminate these practices.  The 
Government recognizes the right of voluntary travel abroad and 
repatriation.  Financial and educational constraints, rather 
than government controls, restrict foreign travel and 
emigration.  There were no known cases of revocation of 
citizenship during the year.


By the end of 1993, more than 28,000 Sudanese had fled civil 
strife in Sudan to seek safe haven in the remote southeastern 
corner of the C.A.R.  In collaboration with the United Nations 
High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), other U.N. agencies, 
and private relief organizations, the C.A.R. National 
Commission for Refugees provided assistance to this group.  The 
C.A.R. also hosted some 20,000 Chadian refugees, most of whom 
entered the C.A.R. in early 1993 to escape the actions of 
Chadian security forces in the south of that country.  The 
Chadian refugees are also under the protection and supervision 
of the UNHCR.

Refugee populations near the Chadian border were encouraged by 
the Government to resettle in a site further from the frontier, 
but neither the refugees nor any Central Africans were forced 
to resettle elsewhere.  There were no reports of forced 
repatriations of refugees in 1993.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens
           to Change Their Government

Citizens were able to exercise peacefully their constitutional 
right to change their government by democratic means following 
a protracted controversy between opposition parties and the 
Kolingba regime, which throughout much of the year used 
constitutional arguments and political subterfuge to impede the 
electoral process.  In the wake of the failed elections of 
October 1992, the Government agreed in January to the formation 
of a mixed Electoral Commission composed of representatives of 
all political parties.  This body drafted a new Electoral Code 
that was submitted for approval to the Provisional Political 
Council of the Republic, a quasi-legislative body appointed by 
Kolingba that included all presidential candidates from the 
annulled presidential elections of October 1992 save Abel 
Goumba, who did not participate.

Following a riot and two military mutinies in May, President 
Kolingba in July accepted a mixed Electoral Commission proposal 
for August and September elections.  There was heavy voter 
turnout (80 percent) for the first-round, multiparty 
presidential and legislative elections in August which pitted 
eight presidential contenders against each other and ended with 
the ouster of President Kolingba, who finished fourth with 12 
percent of the popular vote.  Public and external pressures, 
including from the French Government, blocked an attempt by 
Kolingba to annul the election results through a presidential 
decree altering the makeup of the Supreme Court.  In lighter 
second-round voting (63 percent) on September 19,  Ange-Felix 
Patasse of the MLPC prevailed over Abel Goumba and the 
Patriotic Front for Progress (FPP) with 52 percent of the 
vote.  Patasse was inaugurated on October 22.

The 85 deputies from 11 identifiable political parties were 
sworn in on November 3.  An international observer group that 
monitored both rounds of voting described the electoral process 
as free, fair, and legitimate despite minor administrative 
irregularities and the unsuccessful attempts by unknown persons 
in Bangui and the town of Berberati to use violence to derail 
the elections.  The time-consuming process of tabulating votes 
did not permit the Supreme Court to proclaim first-round 
legislative and presidential results within 8 days, as 
stipulated by the Electoral Code, but the Court did adhere to 
the spirit of the Electoral Code throughout the electoral 
process.

Women remained underrepresented in the political process.  
Three female candidates were elected to the Parliament and two 
others were named to President Patasse's Cabinet.

Pygmies (Ba'aka), who represent 1 to 2 percent of the national 
population, are not represented in the Government and have 
little political power or influence, although they voted in 
large numbers in the 1993 election.  In general, the Ba'aka 
have little ability to participate in decisions affecting their 
lands, cultures, traditions, and the allocation of natural 
resources.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations
           of Human Rights

The Central African Human Rights League (LCDH) is a 
nongovernmental organization with multiple goals, including 
publicizing human rights violations in the C.A.R. and pleading 
individual cases of human rights abuses before the courts.  The 
LCDH raised its public profile with two public seminars and the 
advent of a publication dedicated to relevant human rights 
issues.  The LCDH took the lead in calling for a unified 
opposition response when the Government repeatedly delayed 
announcement of electoral dates.  Despite the LCDH's activist 
stance, the Government did not attempt to hinder its activities.

The International Committee of the Red Cross visited the C.A.R. 
at least twice and was given access to prisons and refugee 
sites.  There were no known requests from other international 
human rights organizations to visit in 1993.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion,
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

The Constitution stipulates that all persons are equal before 
the law without regard to wealth, race, or religion, but 
significant discrimination exists.

     Women

Despite the Constitution, in practice women are not treated as 
equal to men economically, socially, or politically, and women 
in rural areas suffer more discrimination than women in urban 
areas.  When school was in session, 60 to 70 percent of urban 
females went to primary school while only 10 to 20 percent of 
their rural counterparts did.  Overall, at the primary level 
females and males enjoy equal access to education, but a 
majority of females drop out at age 14 to 15 due to social 
pressure to marry and bear children.  At the University of 
Bangui, the sole university in the C.A.R., only 20 percent of 
the students are women.

In rural communities, where farming is the chief livelihood, 
women continue traditional child-raising duties and perform 
most food-farming tasks while men seek salaried work or produce 
cash crops.  Women not engaged in traditional agricultural 
activities often work in commerce as market vendors.  Customs 
forbidding women and children to eat certain classes of food, 
including some meats, persist in some areas of the country.

There are no accurate statistics on the percentage of female 
wage earners, but in cities many educated women find work 
outside the traditional patterns.  Some hold clerical 
positions, and a modest but growing number are establishing 
private businesses or moving into the higher echelons of 
government.  Women are in the military, the police force, and 
the gendarmerie.

Polygyny is legal, although there is growing resistance among 
educated women to this practice.  There is no legal limit on 
the number of wives a man can take, but a prospective husband 
must indicate at the time of the marriage contract whether he 
intends to take further wives.  Women who are educated and 
financially independent tend to seek a monogamous 
relationship.  Divorce is legal and may be initiated by either 
partner, but in practice many Central Africans never marry 
because men cannot afford the traditional bride payment.  
Central African law follows French law and does not statutorily 
discriminate against women in inheritance and property rights.  
However, a welter of conflicting customary laws (depending on 
region or ethnic background) often prevails.

Violence against women, including wife beating, occurs, but it 
is impossible to quantify its extent as data are lacking, and 
cases are seldom officially reported.  The courts hear very few 
cases of spouse abuse, although the issue does come up during 
divorce trials or in civil suits for damages.  Some women 
reportedly tolerate abuse in order to retain a measure of 
financial security for themselves and their children.  The 
Government did not address this issue in 1993.

The Government chartered the Association of Central African 
Women Jurists in 1993.  This group established a legal clinic 
to advise women of their legal rights and published pamphlets 
in conjunction with the Ministry of Social Affairs that advised 
women of the legal prohibition and dangers of female genital 
mutilation.  A second pamphlet, directed at women and young 
children, discussed food taboos.

     Children

There is no official discrimination against children, but the 
Government spends little money on programs for children.  There 
are some church and other nongovernmental youth projects.  
Given crippling strikes in the education sector, children did 
not attend school in 1993.  As a result, the number of Bangui's 
street children increased markedly.

Current interpretation of Article 187 of the Penal Code forbids 
blows or injuries to children under the age of 15.

The Government has never enforced a 1966 law forbidding female 
genital mutilation (circumcision) or Article 187, which is also 
interpreted as prohibiting this procedure.  Circumcision has 
been condemned by international health experts as damaging to 
both physical and psychological health.  This traditional 
tribal practice is common in certain rural areas, and to a 
lesser degree in Bangui, and is performed at an early age.  
According to health officials, about 10 to 15 percent of C.A.R. 
females have undergone this mutilation.  The Association of 
Women Jurists initiated an educational effort against the 
procedure with the support of officials in the Ministry of 
Health.


     Indigenous People

Despite constitutional provisions, in practice some minorities 
are treated unequally.  In particular, the indigenous 
forest-dwelling Ba'aka, commonly known as Pygmies, are subject 
to discrimination and exploitation which the Government has 
done little to correct.  Pygmies often work for villagers at 
wages lower than those paid to other groups.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

There are about 90 ethnic groups, and in the past there has 
been little ethnic balance at the higher levels of government.  
Under the Kolingba government, members of the minority Yakoma 
ethnic group held a disproportionate number of senior positions 
in the Government, military, and state-owned firms.  Under the 
Patasse Government, this trend has changed.  Although residents 
of the north of the country are a majority in his Cabinet, a 
much broader ethnic balance has been achieved.

     Religious Minorities

Muslims, particularly Mbororo (Peuhl) herders, claim to have 
been singled out for harassment, including police shakedowns 
and bandit attacks, due to popular resentment of their presumed 
affluence.  Few Muslims hold senior executive posts in 
Government, but about a half-dozen Muslims won seats in the 
National Assembly.

     People with Disabilities

There is no codified or cultural discrimination against the 
disabled.  There are several programs designed to assist the 
disabled, including handicraft training for the blind and the 
distribution of wheelchairs and motorized carts by the Ministry 
of Social Services.  There is no legislated or mandated 
accessibility for the disabled.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

Under the new Labor Code, last revised in 1990, all workers are 
free to form or join unions of their own choosing without prior 
authorization.  The right of association has been widely 
exercised by the relatively small part of the population 
holding wage-earning jobs, notably persons in the large public 
sector, including teachers, civil servants, and postal workers.

The current Labor Code does not refer to any trade unions by 
name, a change from previous versions.  The International Labor 
Organization (ILO) had requested this change to reflect the 
proliferation of new unions.  There are now five recognized 
labor federations, including the Organization of Free Public 
Sector Unions (OSLP) and the Labor Union of Central African 
Workers (USTC).

The USTC and its member unions continued to assert and maintain 
their official independence from the Government and political 
parties.  However, prior to the presidential elections USTC 
Secretary General Theophile Sonny-Cole expressed publicly his 
support for the candidate of the Confederation of Democratic 
Forces (CFD) and the USTC and CFD both participated in a 
so-called ghost town strike in April.

In April the USTC executive bureau suspended from its ranks 
three of the six public sector union heads, following those 
unions' own suspension of their USTC activities at the end of 
1992.  The public sector unions formalized the break in 
October, with the creation of the OSLP, which the Government 
recognized almost immediately.  The membership of the OSLP now 
outnumbers that of the USTC by nearly three to one (20,000 
versus 8,000).

Unions have the right to strike and exercised it in both the 
private and public sectors.  To be legal, strikes must be 
preceded by the union's presentation of demands, the employer's 
response to these demands, a conciliation meeting between labor 
and management, and a finding by an arbitration council that 
the union and employer failed to reach agreement on valid 
demands.  Strikes did not always meet these requirements, 
although whenever the Government sought to enforce them, the 
unions acceded to them.  In June the acting Minister of Public 
Works sent a note to labor leaders in which he observed that 
the right to strike is an individual decision and, by 
implication, not one that collective union leadership can 
legally dictate.  The Labor Code states that if employers 
initiate a lock-out which is not in accordance with the Labor 
Code, then the employer is required to pay workers for all days 
of the lock-out.  Other than this, no mention is made of 
sanctions on employers for acting against strikers.  It is not 
known the extent to which this policy is actually followed.


Repeated strikes by the public sector unions met with limited 
response.  In most cases, the Government did not intervene, 
allowing health services to operate at a minimal level and 
schools to remain closed.  In isolated cases, however, the 
Government sent in troops or issued provocative decrees to try 
to break the unions' solidarity.  In April government troops 
occupied a labor union building following a strike officially 
called over salary arrears but influenced in large measure by 
the Government's reticence to hold long-promised presidential 
elections.  In June the President and Prime Minister made 
statements that employees not showing up for work would not be 
paid.  That statement resulted in a student uprising during 
which the Minister of Finance was briefly taken hostage.

Federations are free to affiliate internationally.  The USTC 
maintains international labor contacts, although it is not 
formally affiliated with any international bodies.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The Labor Code accords trade unions full legal status, 
including the right to sue in court.  However, by requiring a 
union official to be employed full time in the occupation as 
wage-earner, the Labor Code serves to restrict union organizing 
activities to after hours.

The Labor Code does not specifically state that unions may 
bargain collectively.  While collective bargaining has 
nonetheless taken place in some instances, the Government is 
usually involved in the process.

Wage scales are set by the Ministry of Labor and Civil Service, 
but have been only a tangential issue in labor negotiations; 
the outright nonpayment of salaries continued to be the major 
complaint of the unions, and the main impetus for the public 
sector strikes, which finally ended in November after a month's 
arrears were paid.

The law expressly forbids discrimination against employees on 
the basis of union membership or union activity.  However, 
leaders of public sector unions, particularly teachers, 
continued to complain of government discrimination against them 
and their members, most often through arbitrary reassignment to 
provincial posts.  The Labor Code does not state whether 
employers found guilty of antiunion discrimination are required 
to reinstate workers fired for union activities.


There are no export processing zones.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Forced labor is specifically prohibited by the Labor Code, and 
there were no reports of such labor.  The ILO in 1993 
reiterated its longstanding concern that the C.A.R. Government 
amend or replace laws and ordinances dating from 1966, 1972, 
and 1975 that stipulate imprisonment involving compulsory labor 
for persons engaged in independent activities of a political 
nature.  The Government stated these laws were in "abeyance" 
but indicated it was "aware of the need to bring its 
legislation and practice into conformity with international 
labor conventions."

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

Employment of children under 14 years of age is forbidden by 
law, but this provision is only loosely enforced by the 
Ministry of Labor and Civil Service.  In practice, the role of 
children in the labor force is generally limited to helping the 
family in traditional subsistence farming or in retailing.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

The Labor Code states that minimum wages are to be set by 
decree of the Minister of Labor rather than by an act of the 
National Assembly.  Minimum wages differ among the various 
sectors.  In September 1991, minimum wages were raised for the 
first time since 1980 by between 10 and 50 percent, depending 
on the category of employee.  The lowest paid workers received 
the largest percentage increases in the minimum wage, which 
assures a family the basic necessities but is barely adequate 
to maintain a decent standard of living in a country with a 
high cost of living.  Agricultural workers are guaranteed a 
minimum of $26 (FCFA 7,800) per month, while office workers are 
guaranteed $60 (FCFA 18,000).

Still more serious for public sector employees has been the 
outright nonpayment of wages due to the Government's chronic 
revenue shortfalls.  Most labor is performed outside the wage 
and social security system, especially by farmers in the large 
subsistence agricultural sector.

The law sets a standard workweek of 42 hours for government 
employees and most private sector employees.  Domestic 
employees may work up to 55 hours per week.  The law also 
states that there must be a minimum rest period of 24 
consecutive hours on Sundays, although in certain circumstances 
the Sunday requirement may be waived.

There are also general laws on health and safety standards in 
the workplace, but they are neither precisely defined nor 
actively enforced by the Ministry of Labor and Civil Service, a 
matter about which the ILO has expressed concern to the 
Government for many years.  The Labor Code states that a labor 
inspector may force an employer to correct unsafe or unhealthy 
work conditions, but it makes no mention of the right of 
workers to remove themselves from such work conditions. (###)



[end of document]

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