Cablegate: Senegal: The Symptoms of Instability

DE RUEHDK #2216/01 3181736
R 141736Z NOV 07





E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) In a November 2, televised address President Abdoulaye
Wade called for a "sacred union of the nation" to confront the
country's economic difficulties. He proposed to reduce the salaries
of all workers to establish a national solidarity fund. He also
announced that he had instructed the prime minister to reduce the
size the cabinet. Union leaders, with the strong support of the
public, rejected the proposed reductions and continue to call for
demonstrations and general strikes. On November 5, the GOS
retreated by announcing that the measure and deductions would only
be applied to the salaries of the president, ministers, and
parliamentarians. END SUMMARY.


2. (SBU) The fierce and swift rejection of Wade's call for
solidarity is unprecedented. Senegalese workers, even under the
unpopular rule of the Socialist Abdou Diouf, had generally accepted
salary reductions in order to contribute to a solidarity fund. This
refusal is a clear political message calling for economic and
governance reforms. Three days before making his proposal, Wade had
announced 19 measures he had taken or would take to alleviate the
cost of living. These measures include, inter alia, tax exemption
on some food products, energy saving measures, and state-controlled
prices on commodities. Measures also included his usual populist
statements such as accelerating the exploitation of Senegal's
offshore heavy oil deposits as a response to high oil prices.


3. (SBU) Trade union reaction and the media's fierce criticism of
Wade's governance led the GOS to revise its plans. Deductions will
now only be applied to the salary of President Wade (30 per cent)
and those of the prime minister, ministers, members of the National
Assembly and the Senate in proportions varying from 25 to 15 per
cent. In the eyes of many Senegalese, Wade is wasting the country's
resources by using inducements such as huge salaries, luxury cars,
free housing, and free gasoline to keep the political class in line.
This reckless spending is becoming unacceptable to ordinary people
who have barely enough to eat and to the desperate young Senegalese
who continue to perish by the hundreds at sea in their efforts to
migrate clandestinely to Spain. The media have denounced what is
perceived as unevenly shared sacrifices and are calling for a
reduction of unnecessary public spending. They are asking Wade to
forego the purchase of one of the two new executive jet planes he
has budgeted for and the elimination of the newly-recreated Senate
(Note: Wade eliminated the Senate shortly after being elected the
first time because, according to him, it served no purpose. He
recently recreated it again as a largely consultative body. Its 100
members all have the status and perquisites of ministers and most
were appointed by Wade. End Note.) The national mood can be
summed up by the extremely negative comments made by readers against
Wade on a local Website ( after they posted an article
from a local newspaper reporting that Wade's acceptance of a Chinese
limousine donated by the manufacturer. The police detained the
owner of the site for 24 hours and are hunting down the authors of
the comments.


4. (SBU) It is more and more common to hear that many Senegalese
in urban suburbs or the countryside can only afford one meal per
day. Prices for basic goods such as bread, milk, cooking oil, and
butane gas are skyrocketing and a six percent increase in
electricity bills is imminent. The rise in rental costs has also
been phenomenal. Some inland areas are suffering from drought
conditions due to a poor rainy season, and an equine plague has
killed about 2000 horses, animals which are used by farmers for
cultivation and as a means of transportation both in the countryside
and in cities and towns. It is becoming increasingly difficult for
many Senegalese to make ends meet and this in turn is fueling a fair
degree of animosity against the ruling elite.


5. (SBU) In the past Wade had successfully divided trade unions by
facilitating the creation of new pro-PDS unions. Today Senegal has
18 union associations of which only three are actually
representative of workers. However, a growing dissatisfaction in
the population has led the major unions to put aside their
difference to join forces against Wade's unpopular measures. There
are two main groupings: one an umbrella group called the
"Intersyndicale des syndicates" led by members from the opposition
Independence and Labor Party (PIT) and the "Front Unitaire" (United

DAKAR 00002216 002 OF 002

Front). These two labor forces are planning to organize
demonstrations and a general strike in the coming weeks. However,
with Wade's tactical withdrawal of his unpopular measure of salary
reductions, it is not clear whether or not the unions will continue
to receive popular support for a general strike.


6. (SBU) Many union leaders feel that the GOS lost the skirmish but
not the battle. They believe that Wade's ultimate objective was to
send a blunt message to dissuade workers from demanding new salary
increases in this difficult economic context. They all indicated
their determination to maintain pressure on the GOS to reduce waste
and corruption in government expenditure and to increase salaries
across the board. Since Wade's election in 2000 Senegal is facing
its first real financial crisis. The steady rise in oil prices
caught the GOS unprepared and this was compounded by the fact that a
large the country's resources had been channeled into political
patronage and the building of costly infrastructure projects in
Dakar that Wade wants as the cornerstones of his legacy. Though
these projects will likely have long term benefits for economic
growth of at least the capital, people who need to survive on a
daily basis are in effect saying to the government "we cannot eat
roads." The current socioeconomic turmoil is symptom of a deeper
malaise and by proposing to reduce the size of his cabinet Wade is
trying to send a message to the people that he hears their pleas and
he understands. However, for many these gestures are far too little
and much too late.

© Scoop Media

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