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Cablegate: Senegal: Administrative Reform or Gerrymandering?

VZCZCXRO9115
PP RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHDK #0176 0460732
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 150732Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY DAKAR
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0024
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS DAKAR 000176

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

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

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINS KDEM ECON SG
SUBJECT: SENEGAL: ADMINISTRATIVE REFORM OR GERRYMANDERING?


1. (SBU) Summary: On February 1, Senegal's National Assembly passed
a law to increase the number of administrative regions from 11 to
14, fulfilling an election promise that President Abdoulaye Wade
made in February 2007. Described by Wade as an effort to bring
government closer to citizens, opposition and civil society leaders
denounced the reform as a democratic setback, an undermining of
national cohesion and an attempt to further weaken the opposition.
END SUMMARY.

Administrative Dissection
-------------------------

2. (SBU) The goal of the reform is to carve out of three current
regions -- Kolda, Kaolack and Tambacounda -- three new regions.
Thus the areas of Sedhiou, Kaffrine and Kedougou have now become
full-fledged administrative regions. In Senegal's unitary state
system, regions retain a certain prestige as they are headed by an
appointed governor who acts as the local representative of the
president while exercising the authority of the central government
as the chief executive of the central government's activities in the
area. In providing a rationale for the law, the government
indicated that "The regions of Kolda, Kaolack, and Tambacounda
represent 48 per cent of the national territory but are
characterized by administrative inefficiency, lack of social
cohesion, and no common destiny." Yet, beneath this rationale lies
a political strategy that aims to boost the ruling Senegalese
Democratic Party's (PDS) chances in the May local elections. By
elevating districts into regions, Wade is creating a mood of
regional pride while adding all the glamour of having a governor as
the highest-ranked local executive as well as the concomitant
promotion of political elites into newly created elective positions
such as president of Regional Councils or rural town mayors.

WHY THESE THREE AREAS?
----------------------

4. (SBU) In the Casamance region in the south, Sedhiou's leaders
have always expressed frustrations that Ziguinchor gets all the
attention though Sedhiou was the first capital of the region. The
GOS's plan is to satisfy these demands and at the same time distance
Sedhiou from the Casamance conflict by giving them the idea that
their destiny is in their own hands. The peoples of Kedougou,
ethnic minorities mainly, will see this reform as an opportunity to
unburden themselves of the image of a remote area to which
subversive civil servants are banished. It is also another positive
signal for the area after Senegalese First Lady Viviane Wade's
initiative to build a modern hospital in the remote area of
Ninefesha, inhabited by the Bedhik tribes who are hardly known by
northern Senegalese. By elevating Kedougou into a region Wade is
also likely to end the political career of his charismatic opponent,
Amath Dansokho, who is the Mayor of the town of Kedougou. As for
Kaffrine, it is a significant electoral basin controlled by the
opposition. The Alliance of the Forces of Progress's(AFP) Ms. Mata
Sy Diallo chairs the Regional Council of Kaolack. The reform will
force the opposition to revisit its strategies three months before
the elections and in all likelihood will lose any advantage they
might have gained by managing a large region such as Kaolack.


FEARS OF THE OPPOSITION
-----------------------

5. (SBU) A leading member of the Socialist Party who is a specialist
on decentralization issues told Embassy: "This reform has no
economic, geographic, or sociological basis. It's purely political
and dangerous for national unity; we are getting closer to creating
ethnic regions." He also noted that as chair of the local
government of Yenne (thirty miles northeast of Dakar) he had heard
that the government plans to create new rural municipalities in his
district so that the ruling party can control the area where Dubai's
JAFZA is to create an economic zone.

Comment
-------

6. (SBU) Wade's strategy of attracting the best and the brightest of
the opposition is now being taken a step further by this chopping up
of administrative regions to reduce the political and geographic
areas that are under their control. Wade's strategy also plays on
the frustrations of people who have long felt marginalized and who
will now be under the illusion of being a political center in their
own right. At the same time the PDS gains an opportunity to add new
players to its political base. Yet, in terms of economic
development and consolidation of grassroots democracy, the
multiplication of administrative and political institutions that use
scarce resources to support themselves does not seem to be an
advance for Senegal's democracy.
SMITH

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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