This unusual scene took place at a market in the Burundi capital, Bujumbura, as officers seized wrap cloths imported illegally. The women, who are all stall holders, spontaneously decided to bare all in protest.
In Burundi, as in many countries in Africa, wrap cloths or “pagnes” are an integral part of the country’s heritage. Today, most of the cloths are imported from the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo where prices are lower there.
In Bujumbura, the “pagnes” have been sold at markets by “mama vendors” for generations. But at the Chez Siyoni market on September 27, all stock was seized because authorities say the stallholders had not paid import taxes on the cloths.
When contacted by FRANCE 24, a spokesperson from the Burundi Revenue Authority said the operation “was carried out as part of the fight against fraud. All customs officers can, according to the law, carry out a search if there is serious information on the existence of fraudulent merchandise. It happens that in Burundi, “pagnes” are never declared even though the markets are filled with them, and it’s one of the most sold products. Surprising, isn’t it?”
The spokesperson added: “The tax on “pagnes” is there for the benefit of the local economy. Given that it’s a massively-imported merchandise, we tax it more than other items.