Cablegate: Senegal Scenesetter for Presidential Delegation Attending

DE RUEHDK #0696/01 0861412
P 271412Z MAR 07 ZDK SVC RUEHFN #0736 1071114





E.O. 12958: N/A

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1. (SBU) As the Mission and the Government of Senegal (GOS) prepare
to host you, Senegal is preparing for President Abdoulaye Wade's
second inauguration on April 3, 2007. The Senegalese are proud to
have a predominantly Muslim democracy that preaches tolerance and
visibly supports the United States in promoting peace and combating
terrorism. The GOS is seeking to enhance economic growth to
reinforce its prospects at the polls. Growth has remained steady at
five percent over the last decade, though growth in 2006 was
probably less than three percent. Despite high rates of poverty and
illiteracy, Senegal retains a high degree of political stability and
coherence thus enabling GOS to be a diplomatic player on a continent
replete with conflicts. With U.S. training and assistance, Senegal
has also become one of the world's top ten contributors of

2. (SBU) Senegal aspires to become a more significant trading
partner, but Senegalese producers have yet to make serious efforts
to tap into the U.S. market, preferring to focus their exports on
regional and European countries. The overall economic malaise,
especially in the agriculture and fishing sectors, has resulted in
mass illegal migration of Senegalese to the Canary Islands (and
hence, the European Union), a thorny issue for the GOS. The
prospect of a successful Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) Compact
offers a realistic potential for breaking with the past. Senegal
must improve the investment climate and push forward more vigorously
with reforms to strengthen its fragile judiciary that is lacking
sufficient resources and often subject to external influences. END

3. (SBU) Senegal is at an interesting juncture in its
post-independence history. On February 25, President Abdoulaye Wade
(pronounced "wahd") won 56 percent of the vote in a field of 15
candidates, with 70 percent of registered Senegalese voters going to
the polls. Twice-postponed parliamentary elections are slated for
June 3. In 2000 and 2007, Wade won open, peaceful and highly
competitive elections due to a strong Senegalese national desire for
change after nearly 40 years of Socialist Party governments. Having
come under tough scrutiny and criticism for not having realized many
of his campaign promises, he has undertaken major public works
projects that benefited him politically.

4. (SBU) Wade and his party, the Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS),
have benefited from Senegal's institutionalization of democratic
values, respect for human rights, expansion of tolerance,
advancement of women's rights, and freedom of expression in all its
forms. As a consequence, the standards by which the performance of
his government is being measured are admittedly higher than those of
his predecessors, a healthy sign that the large majority of
Senegalese expect and demand democratic behavior from this

5. (SBU) Senegal is 95 percent Muslim, and it is instinctively
resistant to religious extremism. One reason for this moderation is
Senegal's distinctive and flexible interpretation of Islam. Another
may be its geographic position at the western edge of the Islamic
world. But perhaps the principal reason is the pervasive influence
of Sufi brotherhoods that are hostile to external influences that
they perceive as undercutting their own stature. The majority of
Senegalese identify themselves with one of the four principal
Brotherhoods (Tidjane, Mouride, Qu'adria and Layenne). Religious
chiefs are called marabouts. Followers or talibes are expected to
attach themselves to a marabout, and this allegiance is like a
feeling for a father. In many ways the marabouts have replaced the
traditional village chiefs. Politicians use these affiliations to
advance their policies.

6. (SBU) There is general economic stability, and GDP growth
averaged five percent annually for the last ten years. It likely
fell to less than three percent in 2006. More than half the
population lives in poverty; one-third to one-half have no reliable
employment; the agricultural sector, which employs 60 percent of the
population, is weak and unreliable; fishing, another big livelihood
provider, has also been depressed mostly due to diminished fish
stocks. Most youth see emigration as a panacea, as shown by the
recent flight of thousands of Senegalese, via small and dangerous
boats, to the Canary Islands -- an entry to the European Union. On
a more positive note, Senegal graduated from the Highly Indebted

DAKAR 00000696 002.3 OF 004

Poor Countries program. In 2005 and 2006, the IMF and the World
Bank forgave over USD 1 billion in multilateral debt, potentially
freeing up over USD 80 million per year for poverty reduction.
Despite these successes, the business environment remains difficult.
Corruption is an issue, and while Wade has said the right things
about combating it, members of his own family are often rumored to
demand bribes and percentages of investments. In the coming year,
Senegal will face a serious budget crunch and will look to donors
for assistance. Most traditional donors, for their part, are
hesitant to provide budget support without greater transparency and
accountability of expenditures by the GOS.

--------------------------------------------- -
7. (U) Starting in mid-May 2006, the flow of illegal African
migrants landing on the shores of Spain's Canary Islands reached
alarming levels. Over 27,000 illegal migrants, more than half of
whom are Senegalese, were detained by Spanish authorities in 2006.
Of the 27,000, more than 5,000 migrants have been repatriated to
Senegal. This has generated extensive press coverage by the local
and international media and became a priority for the Government.
On October 10, Senegalese Foreign Minister Cheikh Tidiane Gadio and
his Spanish counterpart, Miguel Angel Moratinos, signed a framework
agreement paving the way for legal immigration based on Spanish job
market needs. Based on the agreement, Spain will provide Senegal
with up to USD 19 million annually over five years. Several other
European countries and the European Commission have also donated
funds and equipment to improve surveillance of the Senegalese coast
and improve border enforcement.

--------------------------------------------- --
8. (SBU) Senegal devotes major efforts to maintaining stability on
its borders. While politically Wade has worked hard to expand
Senegal's role on the continent and in world affairs, his government
actually expends real resources (financial, material and
humanitarian) to its near neighbors. For example, Wade has been
engaged in Guinea-Bissau since the September 2003 coup d'etat.
Characteristic of Senegal's regional anxieties, Wade and his
government continue to express great concern over the eventual
transition in nearby Guinea in light of the failing health of its
leader, the potential for disruptions, and a resulting influx of
refugees to Senegal. Wade traveled to Conakry earlier this month to
underscore his support for the new Prime Minister and to call
international attention to Guinea's plight. Also, the sometimes
erratic behavior of the recently re-elected Gambian President
Jammeh, who rules the strategically located strip of land that juts
into Senegal, raises Senegalese concerns over The Gambia's

9. (SBU) Internal conflict in Senegal's southernmost region of the
Casamance has regional security implications because it borders The
Gambia and Guinea-Bissau. In the last year, there has been an
increase in fighting between factions of the Casamance separatist
movement in southern Senegal and the Senegalese military. Reports
of banditry in the area have also increased. At least seven
civilians died and over 35 were wounded in security incidents in the
Casamance in 2006. We continue to use our influence with GOS
civilian and military institutions as well as with representatives
of local communities in the Casamance to achieve reconciliation and
a lasting resolution to the conflict.

10. (SBU) In addition to supporting the Casamance peace process,
U.S. assistance to Senegal has focused on Muslim outreach, health,
education, export promotion, promotion of women's rights, good
governance and decentralization. Approximately 150 Peace Corps
Volunteers are involved in health, education, natural resource
management and micro-enterprise programs. Our model Muslim outreach
program consists of assisting daaras (koranic schools), sending
imams, marabouts and Islamic scholars to the United States on
International Visitor programs and donating Arabic- and
English-language materials to Islamic schools and libraries. The
proposed MCA Compact would more than double annual U.S. aid,
building an industrial platform 25 miles east of Dakar to decongest
the capital, create thousands of jobs in agro-industry and other
sectors, and help GDP growth to reach eight percent per annum.

--------------------------------------------- --------
11. (SBU) Senegal has been a loyal partner and has served as an
operational base for every U.S. deployment to the region. The GOS

DAKAR 00000696 003.5 OF 004

has supported the United States by deploying troops to the Gulf War,
Bosnia, Haiti, Rwanda, the Central African Republic, Cote d'Ivoire,
Sierra Leone, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC),
and, most recently, Sudan. Senegal was the first African nation to
sign up for the African Crisis Response Initiative (ACRI) [now the
African Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA)]
program that provides military assistance and training to African
militaries with the capability of participating in peacekeeping
operations, principally in Africa. ACOTA complements what remains
the largest International Military Education and Training (IMET)
program in Sub-Saharan Africa. This has paid major dividends
through the engagement of Senegalese troops in their traditional
areas of interest (Cote d'Ivoire) and in areas of traditional
interest to us (Liberia).

12. (SBU) For the U.S., Senegal represents our most important
francophone partner in Africa. Perhaps not coincidentally,
President Wade perceives himself as a good friend of President Bush.
He basked in the glow of the President's visit in July 2003, his
December 2004 visit to the White House, Secretary of State Rice and
Secretary of Agriculture Johanns' July 2005 visits and invitations

to two G-8 summits. For Senegal, the U.S. represents an attractive
alternative to complete dependence on France. We also embody values
that Wade would like to establish in Senegal, particularly economic
ones. However, there is a realistic appreciation among
knowledgeable Senegalese that the U.S. is not likely to supplant
France as its principal partner any time in the foreseeable future.

13. (SBU) On terrorism, Senegal has been among the first African
states to recognize the dangers posed to its own security by
international terrorism. It has cooperated actively with the U.S.
in the global war on terrorism, and Senegal has ratified 12 of the
13 key anti-terrorist conventions and protocols identified by the
U.S. President Wade has also sent a set of draft laws to the
Ministry of Interior that would expand the definition of terrorist
acts and increase punishments for these acts. Senegal is also
leading regional efforts to combat terrorist financing.
Intelligence sharing and vigilance along Senegal's borders is good
and continues to improve through well-established channels. We have
raised our concerns with Senegal's leaders over the potential for
unwanted influences from radical Muslim states, such as Iran.

14. (SBU) We continue to scrutinize Senegal's relationship with
Iran, Libya, Venezuela and Cuba. Thus far, Senegal has done a good
job in compartmentalizing anQmanaging those relationships to ensure
that they do not act to undermine Senegal's stability. We also
continue to remind Senegal's leaders that too close an embrace will
not be well understood nor well appreciated in Washington. Thus
far, Wade has gotten the message. With respect to the situation in
Iraq, Senegal has been more neutral than during the first Gulf War.
(Senegal proudly provided troops to help evict Saddam from Kuwait.)
Senegal resisted French pressure to take a more critical posture,
and in fact Wade publicly noted his satisfaction that Saddam had
been removed from power. Since diplomatic relations were
re-established in October 2005, China has been playing an
increasingly visible role as a development partner, and the market
share of Chinese products, especially cheap consumer goods and
equipment and vehicles. Large-scale foreign investment, however,
has come mostly from France, Morocco, and India

15. (U) Potential investors, and current businesses, are concerned
about Senegal's energy situation, about the slow pace of
establishing an effective and transparent judiciary that understands
commercial issues, about needed education reform, especially the
lack of vocational education, and about burdensome labor laws that
deter hiring and make dismissals for cause difficult. Through our
assistance programs and the donor community's Private Sector Working
Group -- which is chaired by the U.S. Ambassador -- we are actively
working with the GOS in advancing policy reforms, such as reducing
the time and cost to start a business.

16. (SBU) Senegal continues to make incremental progress in
addressing the worst forms of child labor, but the problem persists,
primarily in the form of child begging. The GOS includes the
elimination of the worst forms of child labor by 2015 as a policy
priority in its overarching Poverty Reduction Strategy. Senegal's
Department of Statistics and Economic Study, in conjunction with the
ILO's Department of Statistics, is finalizing a major survey on the
worst forms of child labor in Senegal. Scheduled to be released in

DAKAR 00000696 004.3 OF 004

2007, this report is designed to provide, for the first time in
Senegal, comprehensive data on the child labor situation and how it
has changed over the past year. Mr. Aliou Seck, ILO-IPEC
coordinator for Senegal, told us that Senegal's 2007 budget includes
approximately USD 18 million for "child welfare" programs, including
additional measures to address child labor issues in particular
street children and beggars. At least some of this money should be
available to examine fraudulent religious schools that are often a
front for child begging, and to fund programs for the street
children, underage domestic workers, and the sexual exploitation of
children. Seck is also pursuing a 2007 GOS-IPEC program to
reinforce capacity building of judges and labor inspectors, improve
Senegal's legal framework (such as the discrepancy between the legal
age for ending school and beginning work), reinforce the campaign
against exploiting child beggars, and improve the public awareness
effort, particularly among Senegal's opinion leaders. However, with
an annual population growth rate of 2.3 percent, increasing demands
on an already over-burdened education system (public, private, and
religious), and a stagnant economy, there will be no quick solution
for Senegal's child labor problems. The ILO's Seck told us recently
that the establishing even a minimal program to monitor the vast
problem of child domestic workers is not even on the GOS's radar

17. (SBU) Senegal under Wade is a good partner, very sympathetic to
U.S. interests, and regularly seeking ways to deepen the
relationship. Senegal is eager to receive critical Millennium
Challenge Corporation (MCC) funding, and, though the GOS is eager to
conclude its Compact in 2007, the due diligence required to complete
the project's scope of work may push the signing date to 2008.
Economically, Senegal continues to seek U.S. partners and
participants to improve its economy, especially in agro-industry,
telecommunications, energy and transport. Bilateral relations are
very warm and continue to deepen as we expand our areas of
cooperation and seek additional sectors of mutual benefit. Senegal
also carefully considers potential U.S. reactions to its particular
foreign policy decisions, often responding favorably when we express
our concerns, or when we seek GOS support. In sum, Senegal enjoys a
close identification with the United States and many of our policies
and values.


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