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Cablegate: Senegal Celebrates 48th Anniversary in Malaise

VZCZCXRO7751
PP RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHDK #0423 1001716
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 091716Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY DAKAR
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0303
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS DAKAR 000423

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 CELEBRATES 48TH ANNIVERSARY IN MALAISE

REF: DAKAR 386

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: On the eve of Senegal's April 4th Independence
Day celebrations, President Abdoulaye Wade delivered his address to
the nation during which he tried to galvanize the armed forces
around a Pan-African defense concept and urged young people to be
good citizens. Yet, he offered little prospects for job creation.
Denouncing the destabilizing effects of "politically orientated
strikes" in the education sector orchestrated by the opposition he
warned that he will be firm with those who seek to "harass" his
government, but offered no solution to address the rise in commodity
prices. END SUMMARY.

Youth, Security and Defense
---------------------------

2. (SBU) The theme of this year's independence celebration was
"youth, security and defense." Wade, who came to power partly by
using young people in impoverished areas as urban enforcers to burn
public buses, throw rocks at law enforcement officials and paralyze
the school system through endless strikes seems to fear that his
opponents will do the same. In his address, he urged young people
to preserve the infrastructure built in Dakar but offered no bright
economic or social prospects, preferring to advise them to "be
patient." Meanwhile, he did not miss an opportunity to take a swipe
at some teachers unions and the opposition parties, accusing them of
orchestrating strikes and then making "foolish demands" just to keep
"harassing the government." Wade warned that he "is open to
dialogue but will not to be held hostage by the opposition."

The Police Booed by the Public
------------------------------

3. (SBU) To commemorate the event, a traditional military and
paramilitary parade was organized on Avenue General De Gaulle. For
the first time in Wade's seven years of rule, the police were booed
by the public when they paraded, unlike firemen, soldiers, and the
new helicopter fleet all of whom received hearty applause. The root
of this animosity between the police and the public is the rise in
the use of riot police by the government to prevent peaceful
demonstrations and the stifling of press freedoms, in particular the
recent use of force by the police to break up demonstrations against
the rising cost of food and other basic goods (reftel). This
development is also exacerbated by allegations of corruption by
traffic cops.

Pan-African Defense Concept
---------------------------

4. (SBU) The military parade this year underscored the significant
increase in the number of women in various branches of the security
and armed services. The significance of peacekeeping operations was
also highlighted. Proud soldiers and gendarmes paraded with brand
new logistical equipment for peacekeeping operations in Darfur,
where Senegal is set to deploy an extra 800 personnel to join the
800 that are already on the ground in Sudan. Senegal's Chairman of
the Joint Chiefs also invited his colleagues from ECOWAS to take
part in the military parade after which they were received by Wade
who presented them with his concept of a common defense where
African countries should be ready through training and dedicated
troops to oppose foreign aggression.

Decolonizing Stomachs
---------------------

5. (SBU) In addressing the increasingly expensive prices of
commodities, Wade noted, "We must convince ourselves that in order
for the concept of independence to actually be meaningful, we must
begin with food sovereignty." He urged the Senegalese to end the
tyranny of rice importation (around six hundred thousand metric tons
is imported every year from Thailand) and to return to local crops
such millet and sorghum (staple crops before the French introduced
rice more than 100 years ago). However, in a slight contradiction,
he announced that he hopes to attain rice self-sufficiency in 2015
by developing production in the Senegal River Valley. Wade has
chosen India as a strategic partner in the acquisition of technology
to support rice production.

Comment
-------

6. (SBU) Senegal celebrated its National Day against a backdrop
increasing social tension due to food shortages, high unemployment,
and increasing complaints about poor governance and corruption.
Wade appeared to be on the defensive and again attempted to use
foreign and security policy as a way to distract from his
administration's economic policy failures.
SMITH

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