Cablegate: Flooding in Dakar Angers Local Population

DE RUEHDK #1114/01 2441439
R 011439Z SEP 09




E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Flooding in Dakar Angers Local Population

DAKAR 00001114 001.2 OF 002

1. (SBU) Almost a week after a massive storm hit Dakar, much of the
city and its low-lying suburbs remain flooded. Despite the fact
that the rains and the consequent flooding is a predictable annual
occurrence, the government was once again caught unprepared and is
trying to blame newly-elected opposition mayors for being unable to
cope with the crisis. On August 27, Prime Minister Soulayemane
Ndene Ndiaye visited several of the affected areas where he
announced that some USD 20 million in emergency funds would be
released to assist those in need. End Summary.

Flooded Areas

2. (SBU) The worst of the flooding has been in the highly populated
and sometimes volatile Dakar suburbs of Pikine, Guediawaye,
Yeumbeul, Jiddah, Mbao, Thiaroye, Kaw, and Gounass where small
streets and homes have been totally washed away by floodwaters. On
August 25, the National Highway leading out of Dakar was so flooded
that some people who live ten miles from downtown reported spending
seven to ten hours on the road. There are also widespread reports
of people leaving their homes because water from septic tanks and
cemeteries mixed with rain water has invaded their houses. A deputy
from Guediawaye quipped to Emboff, "the situation is grave, people
in my area are still quiet but it may well be the calm before the

3. (SBU) In Mbao, which was visited by two Embassy officers, 58
neighborhoods out of 76 were affected by flooding. More than 100
families are still living in stagnant waters where they cook, eat,
and sleep under the ever present threat of malaria and cholera.
Most people want to leave but they are too poor and have no means to
pay expensive rents.


4. (SBU) While the flooding this year is spread over a wider area
than last, rainfall levels have been fairly low. The August 24
storm is just the fourth major rain since July and it was just 54
millimeters. According to meteorologists, the flooded areas still
have water from last year's rains because the water table is so high
in the affected zones. To make matters worse new infrastructure,
such as a new highway out of Dakar, crosses an area that had been
set aside to collect rain water. Thus, even though firemen are
equipped with huge pumps capable of pumping 700 cubic meters of
water per hour, they have no place to put the water they might

5. (SBU) The suburb of Grand Yoff, which sits in a geological
depression, is a stark case in point for the adverse effects of
corruption as the area now features a massive housing project
initiated by members of the ruling party and their associates that
stands on government land near Dakar's International Fairground and
External Trade Center. This haphazardly constructed project lacks
adequate drainage and all the rain water that used to filtrate into
the soil now runs directly into Grand Yoff. Meanwhile, both the
mayors of Golf and Mbao told Emboffs that the lack of an
urbanization strategy, emergency response and sanitation plans, and
environmental canals, along with poor urban management were the main
causes of the floods. They also underlined that the government had
not made any effort during the past year to build pipes to drain the

Angry and desperate

6. (SBU) Almost all the municipal governments in the flooded areas
are new and mostly from various factions of the opposition Benno
Siggil Senegaal coalition. A foreshadowing of what was to come took
place in April when the new municipal teams immediately complained
about a chronic lack of funding, citing annual flooding as a key
future challenge. In a recent trip to the affected areas the leader
of the Socialist Party, Ousmane Tanor Dieng recalled the April
discussions, "When our mayors took over we predicted that dealing
with annual floods would be the first major test of their
management. As far as I can see, the people at least feel that,
unlike the government, the mayors are trying to do something for
them." Both political camps are using the disaster to blame each
other. The ruling party seems determined to use this crisis to show
that opposition parties are incapable of solving problems, while the
opposition is claiming that the government is deliberately
withholding funds.

7. (SBU) The people in the flooded areas are desperate and angry as
they have been forced to vacate their homes. A local city
government official told Emboffs that people are being forced to
live on the terraces of their homes or being given shelter by
relatives. School directors, who last year sheltered some of those

DAKAR 00001114 002.2 OF 002

affect by flooding, are reluctant to do so again this year because
last year people refused to vacate the premises until well into
October. Citizens that Emboffs talked to faulted the government for
not taking early emergency measures to prevent what everyone knew
was coming. They underlined a lack of planning and a feeling of

No Major Protests Yet

8. (SBU) For the time being, the situation in and around Dakar
remains fairly calm. An authorized protest rally by youth
associations in Mbao ended peacefully. Other peaceful rallies
protesting the lack of government assistance were held in Pikine
with marchers holding signs stating "we're tired of not being
assisted." So far, the strongest reaction has been from the
Socialist Party. In a statement, Dieng criticized President Wade
for not caring about his people as he spends his vacation in
luxurious accommodations in Switzerland.


9. (SBU) The ruling party thinks it has situation under control
because of its having co-opted important religious leaders and
opinion makers to divide a non-combative opposition. However, the
situation is getting steadily worse because the flooding comes at a
time when Dakar is suffering from daily power cuts. If nothing is
done to help the urban poor soon, the flooding could well be the
spark that starts more outspoken and vigorous political protest
against a government that is still reeling from a major defeat at
the polls last March.


© Scoop Media

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