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Cablegate: Senegal: Increase in Tensions Between President Wade And

VZCZCXRO8958
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHDK #1559/01 3651311
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 311311Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY DAKAR
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3544
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 DAKAR 001559

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 PHUM SG
SUBJECT: Senegal: Increase in tensions Between President Wade and
Catholics

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: In an aside during a 28 December meeting with
teachers, President Abdoulaye Wade compared the Monument of the
African Renaissance, which some have called idolatrous, with the
Cross. In a 29 December response, Cardinal Theodore Adrian Sarr
characterized these observations as "an aggression against the
Church" and in subsequent comments delivered during his
previously-scheduled New Year's greeting event at Dakar's Cathedral
on 30 December he said that the Church was "mortified and
humiliated" by the President's statement. After his speech young
Catholics and police clashed with confirmed reports of teargas being
fired into the Cathedral itself and into the Embassy compound which
is opposite the church. Later that evening, a delegation of
ministers lead by Karim Wade came to apologize on behalf of the
President. End Summary.

2. (SBU) After weeks of debate concerning whether or not his African
Renaissance Monument is idolatrous, the President threw more fuel on
the fire on 28 December when he said, "For Muslims, a church is
place where people pray to Jesus Christ. Everybody knows that in a
church Christ is worshipped, but no one ever said that churches
should be destroyed or that this is objectionable, they just pass by
without thinking about what is going inside. When I pass by a
church I am not interested in what's going inside because I am
Muslim. This is tolerance." President Wade made this observation
after calls by imams that his African Renaissance Monument be pulled
down because it is idolatrous. Wade seemed to be suggesting that
Catholics were worshiping the physical object of the cross, ergo, if
this is not considered idolatrous, why should his monument be
thought so? Immediately after this statement, Cardinal Sarr
gathered his closest advisors and leading Catholics after which it
was announced that he would deal with the subject during his annual
homily to mark the end of the year.

The Cardinal Speaks
--------------------

3. (SBU) Without much ado, Cardinal Sarr opened his homily by
plunging into the subject at hand saying, "For the past few months
the Church has found itself at the heart of a media deluge. (Note.
This is in reference to a previous statement in November that
President Wade made where he implied that the Catholic community
were ingrates. He later apologized. End Note.) What has happened
is sad, incomprehensible and perplexing. Once again, our faith and
the tenets of our Church have been ridiculed by the highest
authority of this country." Cardinal Sarr then listed his
grievances point by point, "We are mortified and humiliated by the
unsupportable propositions of the President who publicly besmirched
the heart of our faith in front of our children and educators. We
are mortified and humiliated by the potential risks and divisions
that his statements could lead to in the heretofore exemplary
relationship that has existed between Catholics and Muslims in this
country. We are mortified and humiliated by the President's total
disinterest in a community that strives to work for the betterment
of all Senegalese no matter of what faith or philosophical leanings.
We are mortified and humiliated that the President compared the
African Renaissance Monument to the representations of our faith
found in our churches."

4. (SBU) The Cardinal went on to call on Catholics to be calm;
however, as soon as the service was over, a large part of the of
1,200 people that had gathered inside and outside the Cathedral
tried to make their way up Boulevard De La Republique towards the
nearby Presidential Palace to protest. Half way up this road police
had set up barricades. This is when the scene turned ugly, as
police fired teargas into the advancing crowd who were brandishing
crosses and pictures of Jesus. As a result, the crowd began
throwing rocks and fled back down the Boulevard towards the
Cathedral compound which is opposite the Chancery. Eye witnesses,
including members of the Embassy Guard Force, reported that the
police followed the crowd into Cathedral compound and that errant
smoke grenades were fired into the Cathedral itself. While the
police pursued crowds around the edifice and into the streets, they
also managed to misdirect four teargas canisters towards the
Chancery, with two landing inside our courtyard.

Mea Culpa
---------

5. (SBU) In order to calm a situation that had now escalated into
semi-chaos, President Wade promptly dispatched his son Karim to
apologize to the Cardinal. Minister Wade was accompanied by the
President's Chief of Staff Habib Sy, Minister of Communication
Moustapha Guirassy, and Minister of Social Affairs Faustin Diatta.
After the meeting Minister Wade told reporters, "In no way was it
the President's intention to offend the Catholic community. The
President of the Republic is extremely mindful of his duty to
protect the rights of all of our religious communities, including
those of the Catholic community. If the statement that the

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President made offended any Senegalese Christians, we present our
profound apologies to the both the Senegalese and the international
Christian communities."

Offending everyone
------------------

6. (SBU) Over the past few months the President's response to any
criticism of his African Renaissance Monument has been virulent and
petulant and he has managed to offend almost everybody in the
country. For example, in a separate statement the President
commented that every day the revered founder of the Mouride
Brotherhood, Cheikh Amadou Bamba, used to walk by many statues in
Senegal and that he had never said anything to criticize them. In
response, the Chairman of the Young Religious Leaders of Senegal,
Sergine Bousso Dieng, a powerful grandson of Amoudou Bamba, said
that Wade was ignorant of Islam and the ways of Mouridism. He also
warned the President to stop trying to drag Touba, the capital of
the Mouride Brotherhood, into political debates.

Comment
-------

7. (SBU) The arguments over the monument have become increasingly
acrimonious and the President, who is normally very conscious of the
fine politico-religious balances within Senegal, has managed to
anger almost every community in the country. His own Mouride
brotherhood is angry at him for his attempts to drag them into the
polemic. Conservative imams are angry at him because of the
revealing nature of the monument and their belief that it is
idolatrous. The Catholic community is angry at him because he
compared the monument to the Cross. Finally, the people in general
are angry at him for both the amount of money that has been spent to
build the monument and his statement that the statue is his
intellectual property, thereby entitling him to 35 percent of future
revenues generated when tourists come to see it. The renaissance
monument has, indeed, given birth to a new controversy on an almost
weekly basis. While distant generations may someday take pride in
this new national symbol, for now it is more national millstone than
jewel in the crown. End Comment.
Bernicat

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