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Cablegate: Senegal: Wade Wages Food Fight Against Fao

VZCZCXRO1997
PP RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHGI RUEHJO RUEHMA RUEHMR RUEHPA RUEHRN RUEHTRO
DE RUEHDK #0647/01 1571211
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 051211Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY DAKAR
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0588
INFO RUEHZO/AFRICAN UNION COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHRC/USDA WASHDC
RUEHLMC/MCC WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 DAKAR 000647

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DEPT FOR AF/W, AF/RSA, AF/EPS, IO/UNP, INR/AA, AND EEB/TPP/ABT/ATP
FOR JANET SPECK

USDA WASHDC FOR FAS/OCRA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV EAID EAGR PREL ECON UN FAO SG

SUBJECT: SENEGAL: WADE WAGES FOOD FIGHT AGAINST FAO

REF: A) DAKAR 497 B) DAKAR 471


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade continued his
campaign against the FAO during the World Food Summit, calling for
the UN agency to be disbanded. Many believe his attacks on the
organization have more to do with domestic politics than
international food aid policy. President Wade's critics allege that
the president is merely trying to scapegoat the FAO for his
administration's failures and to weaken a potential political
competitor in the form of the Senegalese head of the FAO. A
proposed FAO emergency seed and fertilizer program that would
benefit 13,000 of some of Senegal's neediest households might become
a victim of Wade's hostility to the organization. END SUMMARY.

Wade Blames FAO for Africa's Food Insecurity
--------------------------------------------

2. (U) President Abdoulaye Wade has launched a very public and very
bitter attack on the United Nations Food and Agriculture
Organization (FAO). On May 4 on state television, President Wade,
who has come under fire at home for rising food prices, blamed the
FAO for his country's and the developing world's food insecurity.
He called the organization a "bottomless pit of money largely spent
on its functioning with very little effective operations on the
ground," going on to call food aid "charity" and a "huge swindle."
He proposed that the FAO be folded into a newer UN agency, the
International Fund for Agricultural Development, which he said
should be based in Africa. He even threatened to try to sue the FAO
for allegedly wasting money.

3. (U) On June 3, President Wade continued his assault on the FAO
during the World Food Summit in Rome, calling the UN agency a "waste
of money" and a failed bureaucracy that should be "scrapped." He
described the current system of food assistance "a comedy," railed
against Africans being treated like "beggars," and demanded that the
developed world stop "imposing institutions [and] experts on
[African countries]."

But Many Believe this is Just Politics as Usual
--------------------------------------------- --

4. (SBU) In Senegal, many have speculated that Wade's tirades
against the FAO have more to do with domestic politics than
principled opposition to the FAO and international food aid.
President Wade recently announced an initiative called GOANA (Grand
Agricultural Offensive for Nutrition and Abundance) which aims to
boost production through mechanization, improved seeds, fertilizers,
and farming techniques and to attract new investments by political
and business elites into agricultural enterprises (Ref B). However,
GOANA is viewed by many observers as an effort to buy time and
convince Senegalese that the Wade administration is doing something
to tackle the shortage of rice and rise in food prices. Sources at
the Ministry of Agriculture indicate that within the Ministry itself
there are deep reservations over the scope and feasibility of the
plan. The attack on the FAO is viewed by many as an effort to
scapegoat outsiders for the Wade administration's mismanagement and
poor governance.

5. (SBU) Moreover, and perhaps more importantly, Jacques Diouf, the
Senegalese head of the FAO, is coming to the end of his last term.
Speculation is rampant that Wade views the upcoming return of Diouf
to Dakar as a political threat to his efforts to anoint his son
Karim as his heir as president and that Diouf is the real target of
his broadsides against the FAO (although Wade was careful to say
this was not the case during his remarks in Rome).

FAO Emergency Program Could Be Victim of Wade's Assault
--------------------------------------------- ----------

6. (SBU) Against this backdrop of presidential hostility to its
work, the FAO is working to implement an emergency seed and
fertilizer distribution program that would benefit 13,000 households
in seven regions in Senegal. Seeds to be distributed include
millet, sorghum, maize, niebe (beans), and rice as well as vegetable
seeds. All seeds will be certified and distribution is ready to
start soon, but the GOS has yet to approve the program. The project
was developed and sent to the Ministry of Agriculture in late April.
After being approved by said Ministry, the project needs to go to
Ministry of Economy and Finance for approval. As of June 6 this has
not happened. Some believe it is because the Minister of
Agriculture is afraid to forward the project in light of President
Wade's comments. At a recent stakeholders meeting, it came to light
that the Minister of Economy and Finance wasn't even aware of the
project. Nonetheless, FAO is moving forward based on the verbal
commitment of the Ministry of Agriculture.

7. (SBU) Senegal continues to face serious food security challenges
(Ref A) given that the FAO project would only target those in most
need - a small fraction of the total number of farming households.
First, there are a number of regions that face food insecurity and
their food and seed stocks have dwindled to threatening levels. The
amount and composition of food consumption has dramatically changed.
Given that the GOS has not appealed for food assistance, the World
Food Program (WFP) is unable to respond - their existing program is
constrained by increasing prices, increased need, and a flat budget.
Second, for Senegal to grow more food there is a need for certified
seed and fertilizer to meet even a scaled-down version of the GOANA
targets. These inputs are simply not available in the quantities
needed - especially for certified seed which should be propagated
locally with local varieties. Observers believe that the
combination of denial on the food security side and overambitious
(and underfunded) development plans will continue to erode support
for the administration. In his Rome remarks, Wade was adamant that
Senegal could solve its own problems. He asserted that the concept
of "food assistance" is "unacceptable" and that Senegal does not
need outside experts, but only supplies of seed and fertilizer.
Should they be hungry, Wade advised Senegalese to "tighten their
belts."

Comment
-------

8. (SBU) There is no doubt that at least some of President Wade's
comments are heartfelt. He is well known for his criticism of
development assistance that focuses primarily on the provision of
technical assistance and the organization of seminars and
conferences. For Wade, the only assistance that counts is kind that
results in tangible benefits to Senegal, preferably in the form of
infrastructure, and he has said as much to senior USG officials.
Moreover, Wade is walking an increasingly fine line with donors. On
a per capita basis, Senegal is one of the world's largest recipients
of foreign assistance and the Wade administration allows a vast
array of international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to
operate in the country. At the same time, he has recently taken the
public view that NGOs are largely paternalistic and patronizing.
One of Wade's goals appears to be to increase the amount of
assistance funds that the government itself manages. Nevertheless,
there is also little doubt that Wade is on the defensive because of
the rise in food prices and the perception that the government has
not done enough. It is also true that Wade has a history of
systematically waging preemptive campaigns against any and all
potential political competitors.

SMITH

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