Burkina Faso: Court sentences activist for insulting Head of State

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) strongly condemns the conviction of activist Ollo Mathias Kambou to six months’ imprisonment, albeit suspended, and urges the authorities in Burkina Faso to drop all charges against him.

On October 4, 2022, almost a month after his arbitrary arrest and detention, the Burkinabe judiciary handed down a six-month suspended prison sentence and a fine of 300,000 CFA francs (about USD450) to Mathias Ollo Kambou for allegedly “insulting the head of state.”

The lawyers of the activist, who is also a member of Balai Citoyen, a civil society movement calling for “true democracy in Burkina,” has put on record that they are not satisfied with the verdict. They have also denounced a procedure that they say was tainted by irregularities, and have announced their intention to appeal to higher courts.

It would be recalled that Mathias Ollo Kambou, also known as ”Kamao”, was placed under a committal order at the detention centre in Ouagadougou (Maison d’arrêt et de correction de Ouagadougou, MACO) on September 6, 2022, after being brought before the public prosecutor for ”insulting Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Damiba,” the then military head of state.

On September 5, 2022, police officers in plain-clothes arrested the activist while he was leaving a special programme hosted by Radio Omega, during which he made critical comments about the state of the nation address presented by the president of the ruling junta, Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba.

“It is not an account of stewardship that was made yesterday. What took place yesterday is an insult to the people of Burkina Faso. We can easily understand their discomfort in accounting for their stewardship to the nation because it is a total failure,” the activist commented during the programme.

The MFWA is dismayed at the court’s verdict, which calls into question the state of freedom of expression and the right of citizens to express divergent opinions in Burkina Faso. His arrest and detention were arbitrary and violated his fundamental freedoms.

While we welcome the fact that Mathias Ollo Kambou is no longer in illegal detention, and will not have to serve a prison sentence, we urge the authorities in Burkina Faso to drop all charges against the activist.

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