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Cablegate: Senegalese President Wade Downsizes Cabinet

DE RUEHDK #2363/01 3381752
R 041752Z DEC 07





E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: Dakar 2332

1. (SBU) Summary: On December 3, Senegalese President Abdoulaye
Wade fired 11 ministers (including eight women) and hired one new
one. This decision fulfills his recent promise to reduce the size
of the cabinet to moderate government spending. The new cabinet
features 28 members, down from 38, with a more rational
configuration of portfolios. This downsizing is not an effective
budget reduction tool as the real motivations are political. Wade
is seeking to regain the political high ground with this largely
symbolic re-shuffle to answer the challenges posed to his power by
rioting street vendors in Dakar. End summary.

A Balanced Cabinet

2. (SBU) By reducing size of the cabinet, Wade hopes to rationalize
the distribution of portfolios, while maintaining the right balance
between the ruling PDS (Democratic Party of Senegal) and its allies.
Eight women lost their positions arguably as a response to
wide-spread criticisms that they had served largely as window
dressing and had no expertise or experience that justified their
appointments in the first place. The removal of two ministers close
to the political movement "Generation du Concrete" led by the
President's son Karim indicates that Wade might be responding to
persistent and deepening criticism that Karim had too much influence
in the government. Wade kept his political allies, the two seasoned
politicians, Djibo Ka and Abdou Rahim Agne, who are former
socialists, as well as the enthusiastic but inexperienced Bocar Dia
who maintains his portfolio as Minister of Information but loses the
position of spokesperson of the Government.

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Watching the Dinosaurs

3. (SBU) Wade promoted three members of the PDS's old guard to the
rank of Minister of State, increasing their tally to ten from seven.
Technically such ministers answer directly to the President not the
Prime Minister. By having these politically powerful, but
potentially disruptive, figures report to the President, Wade is
attempting to free the technocrat Prime Minister to focus on
resolving the countries increasing economic problems. Moreover, a
reduced cabinet increases Prime Minister Cheikh Hadjibou Soumare and
Finance Minister Abdoulaye Diop's ability to adopt policies to
improve public finances and governance and earn the confidence of
donors. This is a priority task for Wade whose government recently
experienced the first manifestations - in the form of rioting by
street vendors and student strikes -- of growing public discontent
with the state of the economy.

Respond to Social Demands

4. (SBU) The symbolic cabinet reshuffle serves primarily to reduce
public pressure on the government by demonstrating to a frustrated
populace that Wade is listening to their concerns. A member of the
President's Communication Unit told PolFsn that the President is
planning to move fast with the adoption of reforms to make people
forget recent street riots and confrontations with the unions. Ms.
Maimouna Sourang Ndir, the Minister for Quality of Life, who led the
recent operation to remove street vendors in Dakar, has been removed
even though she was just executing the President's orders. Mr.
Habibou Ndiaye lost his portfolio as Minister of Commerce for his
poor management of the GOS's dispute with bakers over the cost of
bread and his inability to communicate to the people why the prices
of staple foods have been on the rise. Minister of Animal Husbandry
Oumou Khairi Gueye Seck was fired for her failure to implement a
proper immunization program to stop an equine plague that killed at
least two thousand horses in recent months.

A More Rational Cabinet

5. (SBU) An NGO leader who works closely with the Prime Minister
told PolFsn that Soumare wanted a team of fifteen ministers and the
President had agreed to twenty but finally went to twenty-eight to
preserve both political and geographic balance in the cabinet.
Soumare will now work with a smaller and more manageable team. For
instance, the Minister of Infrastructure is now in charge of the
whole transportation sector while agriculture and animal husbandry
have been woven into one ministry. Bio-energy, renewable energies
and scientific research are now also in one ministry rather than
two. Finally, the Minister of Senegalese Living Abroad has been put
in charge of tourism (ostensibly we are told to make use of
Senegalese expatriates to do informal marketing for the country's
tourism industry).

A New Comer

DAKAR 00002363 002 OF 002

6. (U) The only new member of the cabinet is Mr. Diame Signate, a
humanities and social science professor at Cheikh Anta Diop
University and director of Cultural Programs of the local government
of the City of Dakar. He will be in charge of technical and
vocational education. Signate formerly a member of the Socialist
Party joined the PDS in 2001. His appointment is emblematic of
Wade's strategy to drain opposition parties of their leadership by
opening the doors of power to some of their leaders whom he
euphemistically calls "new militants."


7. (SBU) The newly-appointed cabinet is likely to be provisional.
Wade continues to search for a lasting to solution to the erosion of
support for the ruling PDS. He is in the process of negotiating
some form of reconciliation with Idrissa Seck (the former prime
minister that broke with him and ran against him last year) and
might even be considering pursuing a dialogue with the opposition in
an effort to achieve a national consensus on the country's

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