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Cablegate: A Walk Through Dakar University: The Students Speak

VZCZCXRO1138
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHDK #1753/01 2391213
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 271213Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY DAKAR
TO REHC/SECSTATE WASHINGTON DC
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 DAKAR 001753

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

DEPT FOR AF/W, AF/RSA, DRL AND INR/AA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PINR ECON SOCI SG
SUBJECT: A WALK THROUGH DAKAR UNIVERSITY: THE STUDENTS SPEAK

DAKAR 00001753 001.2 OF 002


Summary
-------
1. (SBU) In a series of interviews conducted with University of
Cheikh Anta Diop (UCAD) students from all disciplines, student
leaders, and university professors concerning their political views
and their educational experience, "Failing exams is the rule" and
"Success is the exception" was an oft-repeated refrain. With living
and learning conditions reminiscent of a prison, a once politically
active student body has become increasingly torpid. End Summary.

Voting Behavior of Students
---------------------------
2. (SBU) A mixture of shiny cufflinks, 2pac and Jay-Z
T-shirts, and African fabrics whirled back and forth in crowded
hallways as students come and go from massive corkboards displaying
end of term results. The semester is roaring to a close at a
decrepit UCAD, where over 55,000 students attend a facility
originally designed for 15,000.

3. (SBU) While asserting a certain political impotence, many
students affirmed that they now use their vote as the primary tool
for political change instead of protests, pickets, and sometime
violent marches. Since President Wade came to power they have
transformed their political strategy whereby they are now trying to
work with and within the system, rather than outside and against it.
Some students explained that this stance was driven out of fear of
a regime which, they claim, was not above throwing people in jail
for disagreeing with it. One female student leader blamed the
passivity of the Senegalese people and opposition parties for the
country's failures. She believes that people are too fearful of
Wade and the PDS to fight for change. At a recent meeting during a
rally, the student leader recalled how she told the opposition
leaders that they were all "cowards".

Views of Wade's Administration
------------------------------
4. (SBU) Political affiliations were diverse, and many students
noted a change in their peers' attitudes from a traditional sense of
solidarity to a strong new sense of individualism. By and large,
students chose not to affiliate themselves with a political party so
they could be "fundamentally free." According to them, party
affiliations require you to wholeheartedly support the party line,
whether or not you agree with it. Speaking against your own party
is betrayal. This is similar with religious affiliations, as a
student leader explained: "Even if I disagree with what the
Democratic Party of Senegal (PDS) is doing I could not go against my
marabout, and he supported Wade."

5. (SBU) Whether the students supported President Wade or not, they
all agreed that both the educational system and the general
governance of the country were not working. All of them cited
rising living costs, the lack of job opportunities, and the horrid
learning conditions at UCAD as key problems. Those supporting the
President believe that democratic ideals were thriving and saw
potential in their leader. Those disagreeing contend that the
system is not transparent and democratic ideals have given way to
the misuse of resources by those in power. PDS supporters are
united in their belief that Wade is acting in the best interests of
students and that the party cares for their needs. They cite
donations of computers and the building of a new library as
evidence. Others see Wade's regime as a failure, saying that their
verbal support of education seldom materializes into concrete
actions. Dissenters cite the lack of desks and chairs at the new
library and the cramped dorms, made for two, with eight students
living on top of one another.

A Monarchy in the Making?
-------------------------
6. (SBU) When asked whether or not they believed Wade was preparing
for the succession of his son Karim, many students felt that this
was "impossible." "This isn't a monarchy," said almost every
respondent, making it clear that students believe Wade had only a
limited margin of error before he butts up against the backlash of
the people. During a roundtable discussion with eight English
students, the topic of Karim sent the students into frenzy with many
agreeing Wade is setting stage for his son's rise, but also
contending that he will have to be elected into office like anyone
else.

Where the future lies
---------------------
7. (SBU) No matter the political affiliation, every student agreed
that there is hope for of Senegal. One student contended that
"Senegal has a future, for those that work". Though the present
trend is considered grim, students believe in their own potential.
A student called for an "awakening" in order for the Senegalese to
reduce the level of corruption in government and politics, and to
begin working for the people. The students are eager to serve their
country and to promote the welfare of Senegal; however only if they
can find a job.

DAKAR 00001753 002.2 OF 002

Comment
-------
8. (SBU) The PDS party seems to be doing enough to pacify and the
students and teachers, but not enough to improve their situation,
exposing them to a vicious cycle seemingly designed for failure.
They seem eager to see their country change and, while they desire
to make their lives in Senegal, they bemoan the lack of resources
and opportunities to accomplish their goals.

SMITH

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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