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U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1995 - Côte d'Ivoire

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 30 January 1996
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1995 - Côte d'Ivoire, 30 January 1996, available at: [accessed 25 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


From independence in 1960 until 1990, President Felix Houphouet-Boigny and his Democratic Party of Cote d'Ivoire (PDCI), then the only legal political party, governed the Republic of Cote d'Ivoire. The PDCI maintained this political dominance following multiparty presidential and legislative elections in 1990. On Houphouet's death in 1993, National Assembly President Henri Konan Bedie became President by constitutional succession, and served out the remainder of Houphouet's term. Due to concerns about irregularities concerning the electoral code and voter registration, Cote d'Ivoire's major opposition parties boycotted the October 22 presidential election and tried to interfere with the voting process. Only the ruling PDCI and a single small opposition party, the Ivorian Workers Party (PIT), fielded candidates. President Bedie won 96 percent of the vote. On November 6, the major political parties reached an accord which allowed for full party participation in the November 26 legislative elections. During the legislative elections, international and domestic observers noted that the voting took place in a calm manner, that voters were knowledgeable about the choice of candidates and that the presence of party representatives throughout the voting process served to increase public confidence. Nonetheless, observers noted several areas of concern.

Security forces include the national police (Surete) and the Gendarmerie, a branch of the armed forces with responsibility for general law enforcement. The Gendarmerie is a national police charged with maintenance of public order and territorial security. Designated as the country's senior service for enforcing public order, it takes precedence over all other security apparatus components. The armed forces traditionally have accepted the primacy of civilian authority. Security forces, including the Special Anticrime Police Brigade (SAVAC), were responsible for a number of human rights abuses.

The economy, largely market based but heavily dependent on the agricultural sector, performed poorly in the 1980's and early 1990's. High population growth coupled with economic decline resulted in a steady fall in living standards. The economy showed significant strengthening following the January 1994 currency devaluation and the beginning of major structural reforms. Gross national product (GNP) per capita in 1995 was about $525, and the economy expanded by about 5 percent. A majority of the population remains dependent on smallholder cash crop production. Principal exports are cocoa, coffee, and tropical woods, for which world market prices rose in 1995.

Despite a peaceful constitutional succession in December 1993 and multiparty elections in October 1995 - February 1996, the Government's human rights record was impaired, as serious human rights abuses continued. Members of the security forces carried out extrajudicial killings of criminal suspects, and the security forces beat and abused detainees, using lethal force to disperse protestors, according to press reports and human rights groups. The Government also used arbitrary arrest and detention. It failed to bring to justice perpetrators of many of these abuses. Prison conditions are harsh and life threatening. The judiciary does not ensure due process and is subject to executive branch influence; prolonged detention is a problem. The Government restricts freedom of assembly.

Police arrested and beat demonstrators participating in October opposition marches and sit-ins, subjecting them to control by tear gas. The Government places severe restrictions on press freedom and imprisoned several journalists for breaking the law which makes it a crime to criticize the Government and Chief of State. In a highly publicized case, police beat opposition leader Abou Drahamane Sangare in the Office of the Minister of Security in June. Discrimination against women remains a problem.

Respect for Human Rights

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

a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no known politically motivated killings by government forces. However, as violent civil crime increased, the security forces frequently resorted to lethal force. Credible reports indicate that SAVAC continued its policy of shooting to kill in the pursuit of criminal suspects. According to the press, best estimates suggest that at least 22 persons were killed by SAVAC and the regular police. The Government prosecuted no SAVAC or police personnel for these killings.

Police killed four protesters in separate incidents in October, as antigovernment protests turned violent (see Section 2.a.). There has been no public official inquiry into these killings. Ten individuals died as the result of the October election period violence, including two security force members and eight demonstrators killed during crowd control efforts. Eight of the deaths occurred during the preelection demonstrations, and two civilians died on election day in a polling place melee. In addition, against the backdrop of "active boycott" violence and a deteriorating security situation, ethnic strife between the Bete and Baoule claimed 25 lives in October, according to government figures. Harsh prison conditions were responsible for the death of a number of prisoners (see Section 1.c.).

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

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

Despite legal protections for the rights of persons in custody, police sometimes beat detainees or prisoners as punishment or to extract confessions, according to local human rights groups. There were no public reports of government officials being tried for these abuses.

On occasion, the Government punished perpetrators of crimes in the security forces. In July a judge sentenced a gendarme to 10 years' imprisonment for raping a teenage girl in a dormitory. However, these are exceptions to the rule; most offenders are not tried.

A jurists' union official reported that suspects were beaten to obtain their confessions and were afraid to press charges against the police officers involved. Press photographs regularly show criminal detainees with swollen or bruised faces and bodies, a likely indicator of police mistreatment during arrest or detention.

Police also beat demonstrators. In May five students arrested during a demonstration at the Abobo-Adjame Campus of the national university were beaten by police and detained without charge at the National Police School for 5 days.

In June a government minister ordered police to beat opposition leader and editor Abou Drahamane Sangare (see Section 2.a.). In April police also detained and reportedly beat unemployed youth (see Section 1.d.).

Police routinely treat non-Ivorian Africans residing in Cote d'Ivoire (who represent a third of the total population) more roughly than Ivorians.

Prison conditions are harsh and life threatening. Problems include overcrowding, malnutrition, and a high incidence of infectious disease, conditions responsible for the high prisoner death rate. For example, Dabre Brahima, a member of the trade union confederation Dignite died in July of an undisclosed illness while incarcerated in the Abidjan prison. Several journalists released during the year reported that certain white-collar prisoners are accorded special treatment. Officials denied the Ivorian Human Rights League (LIDHO) and other human rights groups access to the prison at various times this year.

According to a LIDHO report, conditions at the main prison of Abidjan are especially hazardous for women, with violent and nonviolent criminals, as well as minors, housed together. There are no health facilities for women, and a number of women have reportedly given birth at the prison without medical attention. There are reports of women prisoners being raped by prison guards.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Under the Code of Penal Procedure, a public prosecutor may order the detention of a suspect for up to 48 hours without bringing charges. A magistrate may order detention up to 4 months but must also provide the Minister of Justice with a written justification for continued detention on a monthly basis. However, the law is often violated. Police have held persons for more than 48 hours without bringing charges. According to a representative of the jurists' union, this practice is common, and often magistrates are not able to verify that those not charged are released. Defendants are not guaranteed the right to a judicial determination of the legality of their detention. A judge may release pretrial detainees on bail if the judge believes that the suspect will not flee. However, according to LIDHO, many prisoners are detained for long periods, sometimes years, awaiting trial. While reliable statistics are lacking, pretrial detainees probably make up 10 percent of the prison population.

Although the law prohibits it, police restrict access to some prisoners. Although the Government on December 2 released Guillaume Soro, secretary general of FESCI, the students' union, and six colleagues, at least one student remains in jail. On October 10, police arrested "Sorbonne" leader Bazoumana Dembele and nearly 60 bystanders as Bazomana attempted to hold a meeting in downtown Abidjan. At year's end, there were conflicting reports as to whether the bystanders remain incarcerated.

Despite the frequency of arbitrary arrest, there is no accurate total of suspects held. In April police held in investigative detention over 800 unemployed youth in Abidjan in an attempt to identify criminals. Several reported that police had beaten them.

The Government does not use forced exile as a means of political control.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The formal judicial system is headed by a Supreme Court and includes the Court of Appeals and lower courts.

According to the Constitution, the judiciary is independent of the executive branch in ordinary criminal cases. In practice, it follows the lead of the executive in national security or politically sensitive cases. There are credible reports that those with ties to the opposition are treated more harshly by the judicial system than those with ties to the Government. Judges serve at the pleasure of the executive and are therefore likely to bend to political pressure. One jurist claims that he was transferred out of Abidjan because of his public appeals for a more independent judiciary.

The law provides for the right to public trial, although key evidence is sometimes given in camera. The presumption of innocence, and the right of defendants to be present at their trials is often not observed. Those convicted have the right of appeal, although courts rarely overturn verdicts. Defendants accused of felonies or capital crimes have the right to legal counsel, and the judicial system provides for court-appointed attorneys for indigent defendants. In practice, many defendants cannot afford private counsel, and court-appointed attorneys are not readily available.

In rural areas, traditional institutions often administer justice at the village level, handling domestic disputes and minor land questions in accordance with customary law. Dispute resolution is by extended debate, with no known instance of resort to physical punishment. The formal court system is increasingly superseding these traditional mechanisms.

Military courts do not try civilians. Although there are no appellate courts within the military court system, persons convicted by a military tribunal may petition the Supreme Court to set aside the tribunal's verdict and order a retrial.

There were no reports of political prisoners in civilian jails. At year's end, there were five military officers in detention, reportedly as the result of alleged coup-plotting.

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

The Code of Penal Procedure specifies that a police official or investigative magistrate may conduct searches of homes without a judicial warrant if there is reason to believe that there is evidence on the premises concerning a crime. The official must have the prosecutor's agreement to retain any evidence seized in the search and is required to have witnesses to the search, which may not take place between 9 p.m. and 4 a.m. In practice, police sometimes use a general search warrant without a name or address. On occasion, police have entered homes of non-Ivorian Africans (or apprehended them at large), taken them to local police stations, and extorted small amounts of money for alleged minor offenses.

Security forces have reportedly monitored some private telephone conversations, but the extent of the practice is unknown. There is no evidence that private written correspondence is monitored by authorities.

Citizens are free to join, or not join, any political party.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

Although the Constitution provides for freedom of expression, and independent newspapers frequently criticized government policies, the Government imposes significant restrictions. The two government-owned daily newspapers offer little criticism of government policy, while government-owned radio and television offer none at all. Moreover, while independent newspapers (8 daily, 19 weekly), opposition leaders, and student groups voice their disapproval of government or presidential actions frequently and sometimes loudly, the Government does not tolerate what it considers insults or attacks on the honor of the country's highest officials. It is a crime, punishable by 3 months to 2 years in prison, to offend the President, the Prime Minister, foreign chiefs of state or government, or their diplomatic representatives, or to defame institutions of the State. Moreover, a 1991 press law created a commission to enforce laws against publishing material "undermining the reputation of the nation or defaming institutions of the State." A British group also expressed concern that the law restricts freedom of expression. Journalists exercise considerable self-censorship.

In February two journalists for the proopposition newspaper La Patrie were arrested for publishing articles that alleged that President Bedie's parentage excluded him from running for president under the current Electoral Code. They were convicted and sentenced to 12 months' imprisonment and fined for "complicity in offending the Head of State." The Government suspended publication of La Patrie for 3 months. The journalists were released in July. Many privately owned newspapers criticized the election irregularities.

In February, two editors of the Muslim weekly newspaper Plume Libre were arrested for writing articles asserting that the Government discriminated against Muslims in civil service hiring, firing, and promotion. In March the same two were sentenced to 10 months' imprisonment for "breach of the peace" and "incitement to violence" for another article they had written. They were released in August.

Court treatment was more lenient in April for two editors of the government daily Fraternite Matin. The two received 2-month suspended sentences and were fined for publishing articles that falsely accused two opposition leaders of embezzling money from their political party's funds.

In June Minister of Security Ouassenan Kone ordered the beating of Abou Drahamane Sangare, an opposition leader and the director of a press group Nouvel Horizon. Following the publication of a satirical article in the Nouvel Horizon weekly Bol Kotch, Minister Ouassenan Kone summoned Sangare to his office and ordered him beaten by police officers on the spot. President Bedie neither dismissed nor prosecuted Kone for his actions, despite opposition calls to do so. In September the Government detained two foreign journalists reporting on an opposition demonstration in Abidjan. (see Section 4.).

The Government owns both television channels and two major radio stations; only the primary government radio and television stations are broadcast nationwide. There are also four independent radio stations and a private television subscription service, Canal Horizon. While the independent stations have complete control over their editorial content, the Government continues to exercise considerable influence over official media program content, news coverage, and other matters, using these media to promote government policies. Much of the news programming was devoted to the activities of the President, the Government, the PDCI, and pro-Bedie groups.

The National Council of Audiovisual Communication, established in 1991 and formally organized in 1995, is responsible for regulating media access during the 2-week formal political campaign period and for resolving complaints about unfair media access. However, members of the ruling PDCI make up the majority of the membership of the council.

Many prominent scholars are active in opposition politics and are not known to have suffered professionally, although some teachers and professors suggest that they have been transferred because of their political activities. According to press reports and student union statements, students continue to be used as informants at the University of Abidjan.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for freedom of assembly. In practice, however, that freedom is restricted when the Government perceives a danger to public order, as it did from October onward when it used lethal force to control antigovernment demonstrations, which it had banned by decree.

Groups that wish to hold demonstrations or rallies are required to submit a notice of their intent to do so to the Ministry of Security or Interior 48 hours before the proposed event. The Government sometimes denied the opposition permission to meet in public outdoor venues. Following opposition demonstrations in September, the Government announced that "all marches and sit-ins would be banned for a 3-month period in all streets and public places." Nevertheless, Government officials later insisted that the decree did not represent "an absolute ban" on public gatherings, and the Prime Minister declared that only those demonstrations which disrupt public order or block public thoroughfares would be prohibited. The decree was selectively applied; only opposition events were affected by the ban. Penalties for infraction ranged from no action to 12 months' imprisonment. More than 100 individuals awaited trial at year's end.

Opposition groups defied this ban in October. While authorities in some cities allowed the demonstrations to proceed, others enforced the decree. In September 10 people were arrested in Abidjan, of whom 6 were sentenced to 1 year in prison and fined $200 each. In Daloa, two demonstrators were arrested, with one sentenced to 6 months imprisonment and the other to 1 year; each was fined $220.

Police used tear gas, batons, and arms to disperse several marches and sit-ins by opposition party demonstrators who protested the Electoral Code and alleged irregularities in voter registration in September and October. Five people (including one gendarme) were killed and 50 people were injured as a result of these altercations. There has been no public inquiry.

Police occasionally prohibit gatherings to prevent the expression of controversial views. An "anti-vandalism" law passed by the National Assembly in 1992 holds organizers of a march or demonstration responsible if any of the participants engage in violence. LIDHO and all major opposition parties condemned the law as unduly vague and as one which imposed collective punishment for the crimes of a few.

Opposition parties assert that the Constitution permits private associations to form. The Government rejects this interpretation and requires all organizations to register before commencing activities. There were no reports in the past 4 years of denial of registration. The law prohibits the formation of political parties along ethnic or religious lines. In 1991 the Government banned the student union FESCI for failure to register properly. The ban was never rescinded, although FESCI was allowed to operate openly until May 1994. At that time, the Government again insisted that the organization was banned, arresting several members of its executive bureau. FESCI remained banned throughout the year but was active in demonstrations, ceremonies, and political party conventions.

c. Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and there are no known impediments to religious expression. There is no dominant religion, and no faith is officially favored. The

Government permits the open practice of religion, and there are no restrictions on religious ceremonies or teaching. Nevertheless, some Muslims feel that their religious or ethnic affiliation makes them targets of discrimination by the Government with regard to employment and national identity documentation.

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

Ivorian law provides for these rights, and the Government respects them in practice. While the Government does not generally restrict internal travel, uniformed police regularly extort small amounts of money or goods for contrived or minor infractions by motorists or passengers on public conveyances.

Citizens normally may travel abroad and emigrate freely, and have the right of voluntary repatriation. There are no known cases of revocation of citizenship. However, the Government sometimes restricts foreign travel for political reasons.

Cote d'Ivoire's refugee and asylum practices are liberal. The Government respects the right to first asylum and does not deny recognition to refugees, either by law or custom. Currently, there are an estimated 300,000 refugees in the country who have fled the Liberian civil war. There were no reported cases of involuntary repatriation.

The Government cooperates with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in monitoring, organizing, and assisting in food distribution and health care.

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

Presidential and legislative elections were held in October and November. The major opposition parties boycotted the October 22 presidential election due to concerns about the Electoral Code's candidacy requirements and about voter registration irregularities. In declared defiance of the national laws regarding law and order, the opposition called for active boycott of the polls during the presidential election. This action included blocking polling places from access by voters and preventing delivery of election materials to the polls. Only the ruling PDCI and a single small opposition party, the PIT, fielded presidential candidates. President Bedie won 96 percent of the votes cast.

On November 6, the major political parties reached an accord which ensured full party participation in the November legislative elections. These elections were, however, suspended in 3 of the 175 districts due to government concern over Bete-Baoule ethnic violence and voters displaced as a result of the active boycott. Election results from another three districts were declared invalid by the Constitutional Council. The Government has not yet announced when elections in these six districts will be held.

Two U.S. nongovernmental organizations (NGO's), the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the African-American Institute (AAI), observed the legislative campaign and elections together with international and national observers. Overall, these observers said that the elections took place in a calm manner, that voters were knowledgeable about the choice of candidates, and that the presence of representatives of parties throughout the voting process served to increase public confidence. In their preliminary report, NDI and AAI also cited three problems: voters and party representatives complained about electoral list accuracy; there were problems with the distribution of voter cards; and inconsistencies and delays in the implementation of the court-ordered system for newly registered voters reduced the opportunity to vote by some eligible voters. The opposition parties also cited these problems.

Although the Constitution provides citizens with the right to change their government peacefully through democratic means, the opposition complained that the Government had used the December 1994 Electoral Code to place formidable obstacles in the path of political rivals. The Rassemblement des Republicains held that Alassane Ouattara, a leading opposition rival to Bedie, had been unfairly excluded from entering the presidential race due to the Code's parentage, residency, and citizenship requirements. The opposition also complained of faulty voter registration procedures and of unfair restrictions on demonstrations after the Government issued a 3-month ban on marches and sit-ins in September in an attempt to guarantee public order (see Section 2.b.).

Nonetheless, the opposition complained of partisan elections preparation and continued PDCI control of the media throughout the year. The Government created a number of new institutions charged with elections administration and oversight of media access. These include a constitutional council, local and national electoral commissions, and a national audiovisual council.

Under a multiparty system adopted in 1990, elections are held every 5 years by secret ballot. All citizens over 21 years of age can vote, and political parties are legally free to organize.

While there are no legal impediments to women assuming political leadership roles, only 14 of the 169 Deputies elected to the National Assembly in November are women. Women hold 3 of the 17 leadership positions in the Assembly. There are 3 women in the 30-member Presidential Cabinet named in January 1996, and two members of the Supreme Court are women. There are no impediments to the exercise of political rights by any one of the over 60 ethnic groups.

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

LIDHO, formed in 1987 and recognized by the Government in July 1990, has actively investigated alleged violations of human rights and issued press releases and reports, some critical of the Government. Other groups such as the International Movement of Democratic Women (MIFED) have held seminars and published press releases critical of government abuses of human rights.

The Government has cooperated with international inquiries into its human rights practices. A representative of Article 19, a London-based press freedom group, visited in June and issued a report in September entitled, "Silencing the Media: Censorship and the Elections in Cote d'Ivoire." Article 19 has expressed concern that many provisions of Ivorian law restrict the right to freedom of expression.

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

Discrimination based on race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, or religion is prohibited by law, but in practice women occupy a clearly subordinate role in society. In other respects, the Government enforces these provisions.


Representatives of women's organizations state that wife beating--while not widespread--does occur and often leads to divorce. Doctors state that they rarely see the victims of such violence. A severe social stigma is attached to such violence, and neighbors often intervene in a domestic quarrel to protect a woman who is the object of physical abuse. The courts and police view such domestic violence as a family problem, unless serious bodily harm is inflicted or the victim lodges a complaint, in which case they may initiate criminal proceedings. The Ivorian Association for the Defense of Women (AIDF) and MIFED have protested the indifference of authorities to female victims of violence and called attention to domestic violence and female circumcision. The groups also reported that women who are the subject of rape or domestic violence are often ignored when they attempt to bring the violence to the attention of the police. The Government does not collect statistics on the rape or other physical abuse of women. The Government has no clearcut policy regarding spouse abuse beyond the strictures against violence in the Civil Code.

In rural areas, ethnic custom dictates that women perform most menial tasks, although farm work by men is also common. Government policy encourages full participation by women in social and economic life, but there is considerable informal resistance among employers in hiring women, whom they consider less dependable by virtue of potential pregnancy. Women are underrepresented in some professions and in the managerial sector as a whole. Women in the formal sector, however, are paid on an equal scale with men.


The Ministries of Social Affairs and of Health and Social Protection seek to safeguard the welfare of children, and the Government has also encouraged the formation of NGO's such as the Abidjan Legal Center for the Defense of Children.

Primary education is compulsory but this is not effectively enforced. Many children leave school after only a few years. There is a parental preference for educating boys rather than girls, which is noticeable throughout the country but more pronounced in rural areas. According to a 1991 U.N. report, females in Cote d'Ivoire receive only one-third of the schooling of males. Sexual harassment of female students by male teachers is commonplace.

Female genital mutilation (FGM), which is widely condemned by international health experts as damaging to both physical and psychological health, is illegal, but is practiced nevertheless, particularly among the rural population in the north and west. The procedure is usually performed on young girls or at puberty as part of a rite of passage; it is generally done outside modern medical facilities. The Government does not make strong efforts to prevent the practice, and traditional authorities continue to uphold it. According to an independent expert, as many as 35 percent of women have undergone FGM. The practice is becoming less common as the population becomes urbanized and better educated.

People with Disabilities

There are no laws mandating accessibility for the disabled. Laws do exist prohibiting the abandonment of the mentally or physically disabled, as well as enjoining acts of violence directed at them. Traditional practices, beliefs, and superstitions vary, but infanticide in cases of serious birth disabilities is less commonplace. Disabled adults are not the specific targets of abuse, but it is difficult for them to compete with able-bodied workers in the tight job market. The Government supports special schools, associations, and artisans' cooperatives for the disabled.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

The law provides workers the right to form unions. For almost 30 years, the government-sponsored labor confederation, the General Union of Workers of Cote d'Ivoire (UGTCI), dominated most union activity. The UGTCI's hold on the labor movement loosened in 1991 when several formerly UGTCI-affiliated unions broke away and became independent. In 1992 11 formerly independent unions joined together to form the Federation of Autonomous Trade Unions of Cote d'Ivoire. Unions are free to join these and other groups and international bodies. Registration of a new union requires 3 months under the law.

The right to strike is provided by the Constitution and by statute. The Labor Code requires a protracted series of negotiations and a 6-day notification period before a strike may take place, effectively making legal strikes difficult to organize. The UGTCI seldom calls strikes. Non-UGTCI unions frequently called strikes in the past. In March, Abidjan bank and insurance employees went on strike to protest the mandatory radio and television tax, to demand improved social security and unemployment benefits, and to demand salary increases. The Government did not meet these demands; the workers returned to their jobs after a month.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The Labor Code grants all citizens the right to join unions and to bargain collectively. Collective bargaining agreements are in effect in many major business enterprises and sectors of the civil service. In most cases in which wages are not established in direct negotiations between unions and employers, salaries are set by job categories by the Ministry of Employment and Civil Service. Labor inspectors have the responsibility to enforce a law which prohibits antiunion discrimination.

There are no export processing zones.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

There were no reports of forced labor, which is prohibited by law. However, the International Labor Organization's Committee of Experts in its 1993 annual report questioned a decree that places certain categories of prisoners at the disposal of private enterprises for work assignments without their apparent consent. There has been no change in this decree.

d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children

In most instances, the legal minimum working age is 16 years, and the Ministry of Employment and Civil Service enforces this provision effectively in the civil service and in large multinational companies. Labor law limits the hours of young workers, defined as those under the age of 18. However, children often work on family farms, and some children routinely act as vendors in the informal sector in cities. There are reliable reports of some use of child labor in informal sector mining and also of children working in "sweatshop" conditions in small workshops. Many children leave the formal school system at an early age; primary education is mandatory but far from universally enforced, particularly in rural areas.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The Government administratively determines monthly minimum wage rates, which were last adjusted following devaluation of the franc in January 1994. A slightly higher minimum wage rate applies for construction workers. The Government enforces the minimum wage rates only for salaried workers employed by the Government or registered with the social security office. Minimum wages vary according to occupation, with the lowest set at approximately $71.49 (cfa 36,607) per month, which is insufficient to provide a decent standard of living for a worker and family. The majority of the labor force works in agriculture or in the informal sector where the minimum wage does not apply.

Through the Ministry of Employment and the Civil Service, the Government enforces a comprehensive Labor Code governing the terms and conditions of service for wage earners and salaried workers and providing for occupational safety and health standards. Those employed in the formal sector are reasonably protected against unjust compensation, excessive hours, and arbitrary discharge from employment. The standard legal workweek is 40 hours. The law requires overtime payment on a graduated scale for additional hours. The Labor Code provides for at least one 24-hour rest period per week.

Government labor inspectors can order employers to improve substandard conditions, and a labor court can levy fines if the employer fails to comply. In the large informal sector of the economy, however, involving both urban and rural workers, the Government's occupational health and safety regulations are enforced erratically at best. Workers in the formal sector have the right, under the Labor Code, to remove themselves from dangerous work without jeopardy to continued employment by utilizing the Ministry of Labor inspection system to document dangerous working conditions. However, workers in the informal sector cannot ordinarily remove themselves from such labor without losing their employment.

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