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Burkina Faso: Government Effort to Register Citizens

(June 2, 2009) In response to a recommendation of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, the government of Burkina Faso has announced a national program to register all citizens in the next 12 months, at a cost of over US$4 million. It is estimated that about 5.5 million people, mostly women and children, are not registered at present; they will be given birth certificates this year. (Burkina Faso: Five Million to Get Precious Documents, ALLAFRICA.COM, May 22, 2009, available at

Part of the impetus for the program is the schedule of elections; the country will hold presidential elections in 2010, municipal elections the next year, and parliamentary elections the year after that. According to Clément Sawadogo, Minister of Territorial Administration and Decentralisation in Burkina Faso, the effort “is something new, it has never been done in our country. We will do it because we need for everyone in the country to have their identity papers at this important time.” (Id.)

The registration will have uses and benefits beyond the election process. Sylvana Nzirorera, Deputy Director of UNICEF in Burkina Faso, has said that it “will allow every child born in Burkina Faso to feel they belong in this country because birth registrations and identity cards underpin the legal existence of every citizen.” UNICEF has pointed out that registration protects children by making it harder to traffic them out of the country. Traffickers cannot claim that underage children are old enough to leave the country without their parents if the children's births have been registered. Furthermore, the law will make it easier to enforce the age requirements for marriage under the Code of Persons and the Family. (Id.)

Although Burkina Faso already requires births to be declared within 60 days, many families are not able to comply because of the cost of registration (about US$2.40) and the difficulty of traveling to administrative offices. The new initiative will provide free registration service. UNICEF will provide support to the state for the project and will be working with two other nongovernmental organizations, Plan Burkina and Sant'Egidio, on the registration. Plan Burkina has been working in this field since 2004 and has already registered 250,000 children. (Id.)