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Cablegate: Senegal-Wade Tightens His Grip On the Judiciary

VZCZCXRO7479
PP RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHDK #1023 2520931
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 080931Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY DAKAR
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1074
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS DAKAR 001023

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

DEPT FOR AF/W, AF/RSA, DRL AND INR/AA
PARIS FOR AFRICA WATCHER

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINS KDEM SG
SUBJECT: SENEGAL-WADE TIGHTENS HIS GRIP ON THE JUDICIARY

1. (SBU) Summary: Alioune Niane, a long time embassy contact and a
judge at the Court of Accounts, said that with recent judicial
appointments, the reinstatement of the Supreme Court and his
resignation as the head of the National Association of Judges,
President Abdoulaye Wade's grip over the judiciary has further
increased. End Summary

2. (SBU) A perennial thorn in Wade's and the Ministry of Justice's
side, Alioune Niane, a vocal critic of the lack of independence in
the judiciary, said that he had no choice but to resign as the
President of The National Association of Judges because the
government was threatening to use sympathetic judges to set up an
alternative association and was also withholding some CFA 40 million
(USD 90,000) in funds. Niane, who described his forced resignation
as a "coup d'tat of sorts", underlined that for years the former
Minister of Justice and current Minister of Interior Cheikh Tidiane
Sy, had been applying indirect pressure to force his hand, going as
far as trying and failing to get the Court of Accounts, a body that
audits government Ministries, or any entities that receives funds
from the State, to bring him up on disciplinary charges.

3. (SBU) As the Chairman of the High Council of the Judiciary, an
institution that manages the career of judges, President Wade has
several tools at his disposal to remove those who have fallen out of
favor. This includes exile to a distant region or the blocking of
promotions. However since neither option was available in Niane's
case the government targeted his powerbase as head of the National
Association of Judges. Unlike criminal courts that have regional
tribunals, the Court of Accounts is based only in Dakar, "so exiling
me to some backwater was not option," Niane explained. Also I am
not up for promotion for a while so really there was no other way
they could neutralize me."

4. (SBU) This time however, Niane felt that he could not afford to
see all his work go to waste by creating a fracture within the
professional judiciary by having another Association created. He
described his successor, Abdoulaye Ba who is the President of the
Regional Tribunal in the northern city of Louga, as a "man of the
system". However, Niane was quick to emphasize that the
Association's Secretariat still contained many who were supportive
of his cause: "In fact, there are many judges who agree that the
judiciary is not independent and is controlled by the Executive, but
they are afraid to lose their jobs. I can understand that. This is
especially true of the most senior judges who owe their positions to
the President."

5. (SBU) The High Council of the Judiciary, which is co-chaired by
the Minister of Justice, recently appointed or promoted twenty five
new judges whom Niane describes as being people who will be
unwilling to challenge the Executive, accusing them of being too
intertwined with politicians. He commented that the new Inspector
General of the Judiciary, Daniel Sane, was cited in a report
prepared by the Court of Accounts that uncovered rampant corruption
when he headed the government Committee on Bids. He was equally
dismissive of the Supreme Court which he believes was only set up to
centralize power: "When the Supreme Court was abolished in 1992 it
was to increase the specialization of the Courts, there was no first
among equals. Today the President's principal judicial interlocutor
is the Head of the Supreme Court to whom all other Courts are
subordinate. So orders go down the system and information is
filtered up through one channel."

Comment
-------

6. (SBU) This latest move is consistent with President Wade's
efforts to further consolidate his control over all branches of
governance, as manipulating both the ruling Democratic Party of
Senegal (PDS) and his succession are becoming increasingly
burdensome responsibilities for the aging Wade. While, most judges
are well respected and are proud to be seen as being independent of
Executive influence they could or would not, in the end, protect the
champion of their cause, Niane. Given Wade's control of the
personnel system, the judges have little choice but to kowtow to the
wishes of the President if they wish to advance. End Comment

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