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Cablegate: Senegal: Opposition Launches Campaign for Wade's

DE RUEHDK #1401 3171305
R 131305Z NOV 09




E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Senegal: Opposition launches campaign for Wade's

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: On November 6, Benno, the Senegalese opposition
party coalition, staged a demonstration calling on President
Abdoulaye Wade to resign. The organizers denounced bad governance
and announced that they have launched a campaign to collect 3
million signatures (twice the number of people who voted for
President Wade in the 2007 presidential elections) urging him to
resign before his terms is up in 2012. The Ministry of the Interior
initially refused to permit the opposition to hold the
demonstration, but then reversed course after pressure from the
President's Office, making this one of the few approved opposition
demonstrations of Wade's second term. The demonstration, in terms
of turnout, was the first successful one the opposition has held
since Wade's reelection in 2007. End Summary.

GOS hesitates

2. (SBU) On the eve of the demonstration, the Prefect of Dakar
notified the opposition Benno coalition that their request for
authorization to demonstrate had been denied. The ostensible reason
was that the Youth and Women's organizations of the ruling
Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS) had also requested an
authorization to demonstrate on the same day, at the same time and
that the Prefect feared that this could lead to clashes that would
undermine public order. However, an hour later the Prefect reversed
his decision and informed Benno that their demonstration was no
longer prohibited.

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3. (SBU) A leader of Benno told Embassy that the President's office
had pressured the Prefect to change his mind. He added that in any
event, Benno had already decided to ignore the ban, citing the fact
that Wade had organized a major political rally in Thies on November
5, and that they did not see any reason why they should accept such
double standards. A leading member of the National Assembly
confirmed to Embassy that Wade did intervene to have the Benno
demonstration authorized and the PDS counter-demonstration
cancelled. He added that the counter-demonstration was the idea of
Youth and Employment Minister Mamadou Lamine Keita who had tasked
the PDS's youth under the MEEL (Movement of Liberal Students)
umbrella to demonstrate. Keita's move is being interpreted as a
reaction to the pressure he faces within his own party as he has
been accused of being lethargic in his attempts to recruit young
Senegalese into the PDS.

Situation may get out of control

4. (SBU) The demonstration was attended by close to 10,000 people,
a major increase from the 1,000 that attended the last protest that
Benno tried to organize. Organizers, surprised by the size of the
crowd, had difficulties, including inaudible speeches by the Benno
leaders. For El Hadj Malick Gackou, President of the Regional
Council of Dakar, a leading member of Benno, this success reflects a
political sea change in Senegal. In his view, the success of the
demonstration confirms a trend that began on March 22 when the
ruling party lost local elections in almost all major cities in the
country. Another leader of Benno told Embassy that to maintain
pressure on Wade, Benno leaders will meet on Thursday November 12 to
set a date when they will officially launch the campaign for the
collection of signatures demanding Wade's resignation.
Approximately four thousand people have already signed an online
version that can be found at ("Wade nadem"
in Wolof means for "Wade must leave").

4. (SBU) COMMENT: This demonstration is a sign that the opposition
might finally be getting some traction in galvanizing the people to
protest a government that is mired in corruption scandals while many
Senegalese people are subsisting on one meal a day. Since 2007, the
PDS's ability to deliver on their promises and to control the
political climate has been steadily deteriorating. In spite of his
best efforts, President Wade has not been able to revitalize his
party nor settle the succession question once and for all.
Conscious of the fact that he needs to reunite his political family,
Wade made a call on November 4 to all PDS dissidents to return to
work with him to end the stupor that has taken hold of the party.
He went so far as to again publicly call specifically for his former
prime minister and re-election campaign manager, Macky Sall, to
return to the fold after having humiliated Sall by changing the
constitution to force him out of his position as Speaker of the
National Assembly. In spite of Wade's efforts at political
reunification, winning back the large number of disenchanted voters
the President has lost will be a daunting task and, given the
magnitude of the problems facing the country, perhaps Mission
Impossible. End Comment.

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