Date: Wed, 13 Jan 1999 14:48:33 -0600 (CST)
From: email@example.com (Rich Winkel)
Subject: ICFTU: Central African TU Leader Beaten & Arrestedy Article: 51973
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Trade union leader arrested and beaten by the Presidential Guard in Bangui
ICFTU Online, 004/990111/LD, 12 January 2000
Brussels, January 12 1998 (ICFTU OnLine): The General Secretary of the Central African Workers' Union (USTC), Théophile Sonny-Colé, was arrested on Saturday evening in Bangui and beaten up by members of the Presidential Guard. He was released yesterday (Sunday) at 3.00 pm thanks to the intervention of local trade union and political organisations.
Mr. Sonny-Colé told the ICFTU that he was intercepted by Presidential Guards on the evening of Saturday January 9 while at the wheel of the USTC's car in the centre of Bangui. Three Presidential Guard vehicles blocked his path and their occupants forced him to get out of the car. When he refused to obey, one guard fired a shot which shattered a window of the car, while the others took hold of him by force. They took him to the Presidential residence where his attackers left him in the car, and apparently went to seek orders from their superiors.
Suffering from several bruises, a wound to the face and a broken tooth, the trade unionist was driven to the police station, then to the hospital where he was give perfunctory treatment. He was then driven back to the police station where he spent the night before being subjected to interrogation and was finally released at 3.00 pm on Sunday January 10.
During his detention Mr. Sonny-Colé was visited by a representative of the United Nations forces stationed in the Central African Republic, who inquired about his situation. Several political and other organisations intervened to demand his release.
His arrest and questioning occurred shortly after the USTC called for the formation of a representative government that reflected the will of the people. In the December elections, the people had voted for the opposition, which won 55 of the 109 seats in parliament. One of the opposition members then announced he was changing sides, leading to cries of manipulation. The defecting MP joined the camp of President Ange-Félix Patassé, thereby depriving the opposition of the majority it needed to form a government. On January 7 President Patassé announced the appointment of a close ally as Prime Minister, former Finance Minister Mr. Anicet Georges Dologuele.
Relations between the USTC and the presidential party's government have been strained over the last year. Pay arrears of up to 12 months for civil servants and the government's refusal to negotiate a social pact with the social partners were the principal bones of contention.
The arrest of Sonny-Colé, and the circumstances surrounding it, were firmly denounced in Brussels by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) which demanded the opening of an inquiry, the punishment of those responsible for his ill-treatment and guarantees as to the physical safety of trade unionists and the respect of fundamental trade union rights.
Contact: ICFTU-Press at: ++32-2 224.02.12 (Brussels). For more information, visit our website at: (http://www.icftu.org).