2015 CAR Conference, Atlanta, USA

The annual Computer-Assisted Reporting conference sponsored by Investigative Reporters and Editors. Read more

Time to Register for the Next Global Meeting

Meet your colleagues at the Copacabana! Registration is now open for the next Global Investigative Journalism Conference, which is to take place in Rio de Janeiro on October 12-15.

The conference will coincide with two other big events in international muckraking: Latin America’s annual COLPIN conference on investigative reporting, and the national congress of ABRAJI, Brazil’s investigative journalism association. Put together, the three meetings will probably be the largest ever international gathering of investigative journalists. .

Do you want to attend – but find yourself short of cash? If you are an investigative journalist from a developing country or emerging democracy, some travel grants are available. You can find more information on the conference website.

Enviromental protection – Mihity, classified as an important international wetland is abandoned by the government

Mihity is no doubt the perfect example of the abdication of the Burkinabe public authorities of their responsibility towards the environment. All it took was the audacity of a certain Adama Nana, a farmer, to turn a zone classified as a world heritage into a simple farmland. The case has persisted since 2008 and the public authorities have refused to be up to their responsibilities. The investigation was conducted to find out how an ordinary common law issue has been cleverly turned into an ethnic opposition and left the government in a trap. A close look at how a drama all at once legal, administrative and customary, put the state to a severe test.

Located in the commune of Banh, in the Loroum province, Mihity was classified as a wetland of international importance by the Ramsar Convention in 2009. Together with 14 others, this site constitutes important natural reserves which contribute to the ecosystem balance. According to studies conducted in the zone, the importance of this ecological zone goes beyond the national borders. Mihity is a stop-over site for migratory birds as well as being a reserve for the fauna and flora.

Since 2008, a land dispute has set farmers against herdsmen. It all began when Adama NANA, a farmer, decided to return to the land of his ancestors.  He was driven away by Fulani herdsmen who said they were defending a pastoral zone traditionally meant for their activities. The matter went through the traditional customary processes and reached the public authorities which got stuck with it.

Contradictions within the public service put the regional administration to a severe test. Court rulings became difficult to execute. The matter remained where it was and Nana seized the opportunity to expand his land under cultivation with impunity, despite the fact that the zone was registered among the Ramsar sites in Burkina Faso.

Incidentally, the Adama NANA saga exposed the inertia of the public authorities in Burkina Faso in matters concerning to rural land issue, and their responsibility towards the environment. Above all, it poignantly raises the issue of the erosion of the state’s authority when it comes to giving effect to court rulings. This is because given its importance, the fate of the Banh irrigation cone goes beyond the northern region, to become of national interest.

Originally a simple common law case, Mihity has become a delicate issue where customary and public authorities are entangled without really able to find a way out

By Abdoul Salam OUARMA.

Publisjed April 3, 2003 in Sidwaya.

Read the article in French online or in PDF: Mihity, une forêt « classée » en passe d’être détournée.

Begging by false mothers of twins – fraud and violation of human rights

Begging by false mothers of twins is a growing phenomenon in major cities of Burkina Faso. Some women borrow children because twins justify the practice of begging, according to an old African custom. To understand this phenomenon which the law, religion and tradition forbid, the journalist spent days and nights in disadvantaged areas of the cities of Ouagadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso to observe at close range women wandering on the roads with borrowed twins.

Despite the prohibition, the practice goes on, and is even on the increase as the years go by. And regardless of the good intentions of the authorities, by way of social actions intended to put an end to the practice, they have been held back by the fear of social repression or the fear of reactions from society. It will be difficult to fight against it as everyone condemns the practice but no one dare raise a finger to say “stop”. Meanwhile the children’s right to a fulfilled life is violated. Immersion in a world where innocent children are deprived of their rights.

By Daouda Emile OUEDRAOGO.

Published January 24, 2013 in Sidwaya.

Read the article in French (PDF)  Mendicité des fausses mères de jumeaux – Escroquerie, usurpation de titre et violation des droits.

Read the online version in French De faux jumeaux pour une vraie manche.

Why do nomadic Fulanis not send their children to school?

In Burkina Faso approximately 40% of the population has a school education, but the rate is even lower among nomads. Why does the community of the nomadic Fulanis continues to reject the school? Are there any efforts at state level to take into account the specificities of this population?

Fulani pastoralist communities, mostly Muslims, have long regarded the school as an instrument for spreading the Catholic religion. At the beginning of colonization, the first schools were under the control of the Catholic missionaries. Also, the school was not suitable for a pastoral life, an activity that requires frequent travel due to the seasons in search of green pasture lands for the heard.

With the independence many countries instituted borders and the African population increased. The greater part lives and work in agriculture and therefore the grazing space is reduced. The Fulani herdsmen began to encounter their  first difficulties. Movements from place to place have become difficult because of the borders. The authorities in the states began to demand payments from them.

The Fulanis became aware of the harm that lack of education (basically by the colonial school) was causing them. They now want to go to school. However, they have to face new difficulties. In order to have a school they need to settle in one place. The other communities refuse them the right to land. Without land, there is no settlement. Without a settled life there will be no school. This is the vicious circle in which nomadic Fulani communities currently find themselves.

By Karim Bahadio.

Broadcasted in French January 23, 2013 at Radio Municipale de Ouagadougou and then several times in the language fulfuldé.

Listen to the program in French Pourquoi les peuls nomades n’envoient pas leurs enfants à l’école ?

Deadly borders of West Africa – a transnational investigation

Increasingly, West African borders have become notorious for all sorts of crime from almost every corner of the sub-regional borders; extortion racketeering and corruption are the order of the day at all the borders in the ECOWAS region. The borders of West Africa have been turned into illegal money-making ventures which rake in thousands of Ghana cedis, Nigerian naira and CFA francs for the security agents positioned there.

There is no way you can cross any of the West African borders today without paying money to the security agents. Between the Aflao (Ghana) and Lome (Togo) border posts, a traveller must have at least CFA 5,000 (GH₵25) to be able to cross to either side. Between Elubo and Noe, border posts between Ghana and Ivory Coast, a traveller with a single piece of luggage needs about CFA 4,500 to cross to either side. The same thing applies to the Ghana – Burkina Faso border between Paga and Dakola, this investigations reveal.

When crossing from Aflao in Ghana to Lome in Togo the traveller with a Ghanaian passport pays CFA 1,000 at each of five different points in the Togo section of the border. A traveller with a Francophone passport pays the same amount at about three different points at the Ghanaian section of the border just to be able to cross over. Only heads of state, Presidents, diplomats and other high ranking state officials are exempted from such extortion when crossing the borders of West Africa. Apart from these, everybody is forced to obey the extornionst orders of border security agents. The Immigration service, Customs Excise and Preventive service (CEPS), Police and National Security Agents have been positioned on each side at the borders of West African countries – and all of them are engaged in one form or another of extortion, this investigation reveal.

By Kwabena Adu Koranteng (Ghana) & Ouamar Abdulai (Burkina Faso).

Published September 4, 2012 in The Crusading Guide.

Read the article Deadly borders of West Africa

And the follow up story published September 10, 2012: Togo government reacts on the story Deadly Borders.

The impact of GMO cotton on health – the great uncertainty

In 2009, some agricultural producers assigned the responsibility for series mysterious deaths of animals and birds to the cultivation of genetically-engineered cotton. Cotton producing companies and the authorities reacted immediately to challenge this. They insist that they had carried out tests which proved negative. However, up to now none of the parties have bought up any scientific proof to confirm or disprove the claims.

An outbreak of disease has affected poultry as well as small ruminants. This strange epidemic which has coincided with the malformation of babies has spread panic among some producers. A group of farmers has therefore demanded explanations from the cotton producing companies. Emmanuel, the leader of the protesters, was picked up by the gendarmes for spreading false information. He said in 2009 he lost 24 goats, 37 sheep in addition to several miscarriages among the animals. Livestock breeders such as Pati Boly stated that some sixty cows, small ruminants as well as fowls have died since production of GMO cotton began in the region. The panic forced him to send the rest of his herd to neighbouring Ghana. Hamadoun Tall and his neighbours also lost a good deal of their livestock. They blame the GMO cotton for the outbreak of diseases based on their comparison with conventional cotton and genetically modified cotton. Human health is also allegedly affected by the production of GMO cotton in the region.

The farmers, who have suspicions, do not have the wherewithal, against the powerful multinationals to make their point strongly. The argument being advanced is that these outbreaks of diseases are due to improper use of pesticides.

By Abdoul Razac Napon

Published January 25, 2012 in l’Evénement

Read the article in French Impact du coton OGM sur la santé – La grosse incertitude


When “agro businessmen” drive away traditional producers

Competition for land in the rural areas is taking a disturbing turn in Burkina Faso. Having been spared this phenomenon up until recently, the country now has to face a situation which can destabilise social peace. At the origin of the problem is the government’s policy of encouraging agro businessmen. The state believes that these new players are in a better position to help the country achieve food security.

The new policy ignores the rights of landless farmers. Before then, the law on land use, the RAF 1984, passed under Thomas Sankara’s revolution encouraged farmers who had the possibility of becoming property owners, through occupying and continually putting to productive use rural land. The new law on land use in the rural areas which was passed in 2008 left farmers landless. This investigation conducted by Idrissa Barry in one of Burkina Faso’s regions, which still has lands suitable for agriculture depicts the tragic situation of the farmers left to their fate. The investigation lasted from January to September, 2011. It all happened in the ZIRO region, about 100 kilometres south of Ouagadougou, the country’s political capital.

By Idrissa Barry

Published December 10, 2011 in L’Evénement.

Read the articles in French  “Un lopin de terre sème la discorde dans la commune” et “Quand les agrobusiness chassent les producteurs tradionnels

Schools without school girls at Sourou

In Burkina Faso there is a lot of talk about the advancement of women and girls in society. In this very country, thousands of little girls are forced each year to quit school to become domestics. This exodus is leading to the birth of networks claiming to be philanthropic, but which in fact, thrive and trade on this human distress. State institutions are well aware of this but declare they are powerless. For six months, Rachelle Somé, a journalist at Radio Pulsar, carried out an investigation around the phenomenon by tracing the itenary of these girls from their village, in Sourou, one of Burkina Faso’s 45 regions, to the capital. A journey into the heart of an accepted abuse.

By Rachelle Somé

Broadcasted  Septembre 16, 2011 at 11h on Radio Pulsare.

Listen to the program in French Écoles sans écolières au Sourou – l’exode rural se féminise.