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Cablegate: Senegal: The Opposition's Threatens to Use Violent Tactics

VZCZCXRO6357
PP RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHDK #0521 1271232
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 061232Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY DAKAR
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0429
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS DAKAR 000521

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: THE OPPOSITION'S THREATENS TO USE VIOLENT TACTICS

1. (SBU) Summary: On April 26, the youth movements of Senegal's
opposition parties organized a demonstration to protest rising
commodities prices. This heralds a new strategy for the opposition,
which is looking to gain some political advantage from the
government's poor economic policies. Unlike previous times, the
government authorized the demonstration while President ratcheted up
the rhetoric by launching a political counter offensive. END
SUMMARY.

No Tour de Force
----------------

2. (SBU) The demonstration took place on a main boulevard in Dakar
with about 1,500 demonstrators responding to the opposition's call
to protest against looming food shortages. In a jab at the
government, demonstrators wore vests made of plastic rice bags and
women carried cooking pots with holes. This fairly meager protest
was led by main opposition leaders Ousmane Tanor Dieng of the
Socialist party (PS), Abdoulaye Bathily of the Democratic League
(LD/MPT) and Amath Dansokh of the Party of Labor (PIT). Unlike
previous demonstrations when peaceful demonstrators were
systematically attacked by police with tear gas and electric batons
this one had a carnival-like atmosphere. Although some shop keepers
closed their stores, many others, including Chinese traders, were
open for business. The inhabitants of the area cheered the
demonstrators although they chose to remain on their door steps.


GOS authorized the protest
--------------------------
3. (SBU) Recently members of the opposition indicated that they
were prepared to be more confrontational with the ruling PDS
(Democratic Party of Senegal). In what seems to be a change of
tactics, the government not only authorized this protest but the PDS
leadership also cancelled a scheduled a counter demonstration by
their youth wing at the same place and same, calling it
undemocratic. However, there remains an underlying fear by the
authorities that they may yet lose control of public order as
evidenced by the nighttime arrest of two young socialist leaders,
Mr. Ali Mane and Ms. Aicha Dieng. Both were released at 7:00 pm
after the conclusion of the demonstration. A member of the PS youth
movement told Embassy that Mane is "violent and excessively
militant." As for Ms. Dieng's arrest, he speculated that as she is
the right arm of Barthelemy Dias, the architect of the
demonstration, her arrest served as a blackmailing chip to rein in
the volatile Dias.

The ruling party has got the message
------------------------------------
4. (SBU) Wade seems to have understood that he has to win the
public opinion battle. His government has begun a communications
campaign touting achievements in education, health, and
infrastructure while he takes on the task of vilifying his
opponents. At a huge political meeting just before the opposition's
demonstration, he took swipes at all the leading opposition leaders
calling them incompetent and questioning their suitability to be
President.

Comment
-------
5. (SBU) As evidenced by this weekend's less than stellar turnout,
the Senegalese opposition remains atomized and weak, thus limiting
its push for a hardening of the tone against Wade's government.
Wade is deftly maneuvering through this delicate social quagmire and
may yet succeed provided that the food situation does not
deteriorate further and he maintains what seems to be a new move to
allow dissent and a respect for public liberties.
SMITH

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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