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Central African Republic teachers strike for arrears, 2002
Starting in 2001, rebels supporting the leader François Bozize attempted coups to overthrow President Ange-Félix Patassé in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic. The political unrest during this time resulted in a drop of the country’s economy. The government fell behind in payments to many civil servants, such as teachers, and made a priority of paying soldiers to fight the rebels. The teachers demanded that the government pay them nine months of their salaries from the total of twenty-three months in arrears. In October 2002, 7,000 teachers engaged in an initial eight-day nationwide strike. If the government failed to respond to the demands, the teachers threatened to continue the strike.
After eight days the government offered to pay one month of the arrears, but the teachers refused the offer and continued to stay on strike. The government recruited new teachers to replace the strikers, but also failed to pay the newly hired teachers. By January 2003, eighty percent of the teachers were on strike. Although the majority of teachers were on strike, some pupils still continued to attend classes. However, in cities where rebels overtook the government, schools were not in session and thousands of civilians fled.
A confederation of five teachers' unions, Interfederale des Enseignants des Centrafrique, attempted to reconcile the demands of the teachers with the government. The chairman, Malachie Mbokane, spoke with government officials and conveyed the message that teachers wanted the government to make responsible moves towards repaying the arrears, and that the teachers understood the economic and social hardships of the time and would consider revising their claims.
On March 15, Bozize’s coup ousted Patassé. The new Bozize administration promised to pay salaries monthly and to repay the arrears once the economic situation improved. Michel Kpingo, a union spokesman publicly stated that because the unions felt that they had contributed to the change in government, and that they were represented in the transitional government, the teachers decided to end the strike.
By April the Interfederale des Enseignants de Centrafrique reached an agreement to resume work on 2 May. The teachers were subsequently paid their salaries for April. The government promptly paid monthly salaries to the teachers until November 2003 when they began to fall behind in payment. On January 8, 2004, Mohamed Mahadi-Marboua, the minister of finance for the Interfederale des Enseignants des Centrafrique announced that the government failed to pay the salary arrears as promised by the Bozize government.