Cablegate: Senegal: Youth Shot Dead by Military During Demonstration

DE RUEHDK #1476 3641736
R 291736Z DEC 08




E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: SENEGAL: Youth Shot Dead by Military During Demonstration

1. (SBU) On December 23, 21-year-old Mamdaou Sinna Sidibe was shot
dead by military personnel during a violent demonstration to protest
against the poor living conditions and the lack of jobs in the
mineral rich region of Kedougou in southeastern Senegal. Mr. Sidibe
was a metal worker heading to work and was caught in the
demonstration. Enraged citizens then attacked and burned every
government building in the town of Kedougou itself as well as
destroying several vehicles and looting 10 Kalashnikovs from a
Gendarmerie post. Another man was killed later that evening during
an attack at his store. 34 people have so far been arrested and
police are still looking for the youths that stole the weapons from
the Gendarmerie. According to local informants in the area, calm
has now been restored following a major crackdown by the military,
although the situation remains tense. End Summary

Locals Protest Lack of Access to Gold Mining
--------------------------------------------- -

2. (SBU) The protestors were demonstrating against the
unavailability of jobs in the mining sector, especially in
small-scale artisanal mining, where they say concessions have been
given to non-locals and foreigners. Furthermore, many of those
active in these mining operations hail from neighboring countries
such as Mali and Guinea. Other complaints include the signing of
opaque contracts between the government and the mining companies,
the fact that government revenues from mining operations have not
been recycled back to local communities and the inattentiveness of
the government to all of the aforementioned concerns. According to
prominent Senegalese NGO Raddho's leader in Kedougou, Mor Khouma,
local students discovered that a social welfare fund paid into by
mining companies to build schools, wells, provide micro finance
credit and vocational training to young people so that they can be
employed in the mining sector has some 3.5 billion CFA that has so
far remain unused.


3. (SBU) Khouma told Embassy that the demonstration was meant to be
peaceful. He went onto say that the demonstration was the idea of
Cheikh Anta Diop University students from the region of Kedougou who
wanted to protest the aforementioned lack of infrastructure
development. They thus prepared a memo for the regional governor
and then proceeded to go to his office to deliver the memo. Upon
seeing such a large crowd approaching the governor's office, the
authorities panicked and the military was called in for crowd
control. The RADDHO representative said that security forces
started firing indiscriminately and that Mr. Sidibe was killed
instantly with a shot to the head.

Government Steps In

4. (SBU) Following the riots and the death of Mr. Sidibe, government
spokesperson Abdou Aziz Sow claimed that the victim had been
trampled to death as demonstrators were attempting to flee the
scene. However, an autopsy report confirmed that Mr. Sidibe had
been shot in the head as was initially reported. According to
RADDHO, a crackdown is now in effect and people are being
arbitrarily arrested and beaten. Over the weekend the government
sent down a high-level delegation lead by Interior Minister Cheikh
Tidiane Sy along with Minister of Defense Becaye Diop and the head
of the Gendarmerie, General Abdoulaye Fall. Note: The head of the
Gendarmerie has the same name as the chief of staff of the armed
forces. The two are not related. End note. In a statement,
Minister Sy said that he thought that this was not a spontaneous
act, rather, the youths had planned the violence.


5. (SBU) This kind of shooting is unusual in Senegal where security
forces - military and police - are known for their restraint and
discipline. During riots, police tend to use tear gas and
truncheons to disperse crowds. Hopefully, this shooting will remain
the isolated event that it appears to be. As for the protestors,
their arguments have some merit. When President Abdoulaye Wade
announced the reopening of the Sabodala gold mining plant he said
that it "would end unemployment in Kedougou." However, according to
a wide variety of reports both in the media and in discussions with
local contacts, the only people that seem to have benefited from
this mineral windfall are those who enjoy the patronage of the
President and his entourage. Added to this is the fact that land is
being sold off to developers and that young children are employed in
informal artisanal mining operations to sort gold dust from soil by
using highly toxic mercury. End comment.

© Scoop Media

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