Cablegate: Senegal: Controversy Over Gay Marriage

DE RUEHDK #0187/01 0501526
P 191526Z FEB 08






E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: On February 1, a small-circulation magazine
called "ICONE" published pictures of a 2006 homosexual marriage
uniting a Senegalese male and a Ghanaian male. As a result, the
National Police detained and interrogated five homosexuals
identified in the pictures and subsequently released them after four
days in custody without being charged. In reaction to this release,
two Islamist organizations have launched an anti-gay campaign to
criticize what they perceive to be Senegal's overly permissive
society and the attempt by proponents of western modernity to
undermine Islamic mores. END SUMMARY.

Police arrest homosexuals

2. (SBU) Mansour Dieng, editor of "Icone" magazine, said that he
had published the pictures of the gay marriage to alert authorities
of the spread of homosexuality in Senegal. Police arrested a
homosexual named Pape Mbaye and four other homosexuals formally
identified on the pictures. A Ghanaian homosexual named Jonas has
allegedly fled to avoid being arrested. Though all those who were
detained have been released, there is no indication that the case
has been dropped by the prosecutor. It is believed that Ministry of
Interior officials hesitated to bring charges because MBaye and his
associates threatened to "out" all homosexuals they know in
government and judicial circles.

Human Rights Organizations protest

3. (SBU) The Minister of Justice was pressured by the International
Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) to release the
detainees. Strong pressure also came from local human rights NGOS,
especially Raddho (African Rally for Human Rights), whose leader
Alioune Tine condemned the detention as contrary to Senegal's
Constitution that guarantees individual freedom and the UN Covenant
on Civil and Political Rights ratified by Senegal in 1981. A
coalition of NGOs also issued a statement demanding that the
government decriminalize homosexuality - the document was signed by
Raddho, the local chapter of Amnesty International, the National
Human Rights Organization (ONDH) and the International Federation
for Human Rights (FDIH). They all called for the abrogation of
Article 319 of Senegal's Penal Code, which "condemns whoever commits
indecent or unnatural acts with an individual of the same sex to one
to five years of imprisonment and payment of a fine of 100,000 to
1.5 million CFA" (200 to 3,000 US dollars).

Islamic Reformists lead the charge

4. (SBU) Two organizations are leading the charge against gays -
JAMRA, an Islamic NGO, and MRDS (Movement for Reform and Social
Development), a political party led by Imam Mbaye Niang, Deputy at
the National Assembly. The Vice President of JAMRA, Imam Massamba
Diop, invited all Imams to condemn homosexuality in their February 8
sermons. His call was answered and one imam went as far as
recommending stoning homosexuals. Deputy Niang led debates in the
media, and intends to convene a National Assembly session to force
the government to explain why they granted immunity to the
homosexuals by refusing to prosecute them. He also visited the
Caliph-General of the Mouride Brotherhood to seek his support in his
anti-gay campaign. Both JAMRA and MRDS are very small organizations
seeking to use this opportunity to appeal to people's religious
values to increase their political support.

5. (SBU) On Friday February 15, after the noon prayer at the Grand
Mosque of Dakar, Imam Mbaye Niang led a crowd of about five hundred
people gathered inside the Mosque to prepare for a demonstration.
The chanted "Alahou Akbar" (God is great) and "Allahou Wahidoun"
(God is Unique) and carried banners saying "End Moral Degeneration."
Riot police closed all the streets around the mosque and tried to
corral the demonstrators inside the compound of the Grand Mosque.
When demonstrators started to throw rocks at them, the police
responded with tear gas. When the rock-throwing then escalated,
police officers entered the mosque compound, chased the
demonstrators, and used batons to beat some of them. A total of 28
people were arrested and later relased. Additional demonstrators
dispersed aroun the Mosque and attacked government-owned buses wih
stones. Opposition parties and many ordinary eople condemned he
police action inside a religius shrine. National Assembly deputy
and Imam Ning has indicated that he will continue his campaig to
pressure the government, by introducing in prliament a bill to
increase sentences for homoseuality. In a press conference held on
February 15, Niang expressed regret that the government provides
medical care and products that facilitate the practice of
homosexuality in Senegal.


DAKAR 00000187 002 OF 002

6. (SBU) Senegal is a generally tolerant society with a moderate
form of Islam. But it is clear that Senegalese society is
undergoing fast urban transformation and is being torn between the
model of an open Western democratic system and a traditional Islamic
social order that idealizes the past. The country's small minority
of Islamist fundamentalists see this as an opportunity to revitalize
their brand of political Islam. Their current homophobic campaign
and their successful opposition to changes to Senegal's adoption law
in 2007 are partly possible because of the election of one of their
leaders, Imam Mbaye Niang, to the National Assembly. While the
traditional religious brotherhoods, the Mourides and the Tijanes,
were not part of the demonstration and have not expressed a will to
confront homosexuals, their restraint and the determination of
Islamic fundamentalists such as Imam Niang, who are pushing for a
moral renaissance, could result in mob justice whereby some
individuals, with the tacit approval of many in society at large,
will take matters into their own hands.

© Scoop Media

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