BURKINA FASO

Hidden camera used to expose racket run by Burkina Faso police

Screen grabs from a video fimed with a hidden camera by a journalist in Burkina Faso.
Screen grabs from a video fimed with a hidden camera by a journalist in Burkina Faso.
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A journalist in Burkina Faso used a hidden camera to record evidence of the systematic racket that police are running on the roads of this West African nation. The video shows police officers asking for bribes in total impunity.

Journalist Moumouni Yaro, who works for the private radio station Oméga, went undercover on February 16 and 17, pretending to be a trainee truck driver on the road that links the capital of Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou, and Cinkassé, in neighbouring Togo. Using a hidden camera, he caught police officers asking for bribes on camera.

Yaro filmed this video using a hidden camera.

"I used a hidden camera while I was pretending to be a trainee driver”

For the past few years, truck drivers have been complaining about the police posts where security forces regularly extort them. I teamed up with the national union of truck drivers to undertake an investigation using a hidden camera to show what drivers experience on the highways. I don’t want to say what kind of device I used for security reasons, but it is very discreet.

My goal was to alert authorities as to what was going on. In 2016, the Transportation Minister encouraged truck drivers to turn in video proof of the wrongdoings of security forces. Several videos like mine have already come out, but the government still hasn’t closed the police posts where these infractions occurred.

I succeeded in convincing a truck driver to let me ride along with him on the road to Cinkassé, a town on the border of Burkina Faso and Togo. I pretended to be a trainee driver.

Yaro poses in front of the truck that took him to Cinkassé and back. He pretended to be a trainee driver while really carrying out his investigation.

 

At least 1,000 CFA francs at each police post

While on this road, I was able to see that trucks transporting goods were systematically stopped at several different police posts [Editor’s note: On the map below, you can see these police posts. If you click on the red thumbnail, you can see the amount of the bribe demanded at each station]. They usually asked for around 1000 CFA francs [€1.50]. You were supposed to slip the money into the folder holding the vehicle’s documents.

"Drivers spend huge amounts of money on bribes”

Drivers can end up spending up to 50,000 CFA francs [around €76] on bribes during one journey from Ouagadougou to Cinkassé and back. That represents a significant chunk of their salary. They have to make back this money on the price of the products they are transporting, which increases prices for consumers.

From what I saw, hundreds of trucks take this road every day and hand over this money to security forces.

The whole system is illegal. These police posts exist as a way to make sure that the vehicles on the road are in good condition and to make sure that people have their documents in order. But the police take advantage of the system.

This racket exists in most countries in the region but it is a fairly recent phenomenon in Burkina Faso, as it really kicked off in 2015. I think it has something to do with the ramped-up security measures undertaken in light of the heightened threat of terrorist attacks.

>>WATCH: Witness recounts Ouagadougou terrorist attacks (2016)

The state wanted to hamper terrorist groups by better screening the cars on the road and verifying the contents of trucks. However, today, the opposite is happening. As long as they get 1,000 CFA francs, the police don’t even take the time to check who you are, and even less what you are carrying.

 

Yaro took a second trip on February 20, this time traveling by bus to the border between Burkina Faso and Niger. He said that the driver, foreign passengers and undocumented travellers all had to pay bribes, but only at the last two police posts before the border.

In January, several different people who regularly travel along this route told FRANCE 24 that it is commonplace for police to demand bribes in the region near the border between these two countries.