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When Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade was booed by hundreds of voters as he cast his ballot Sunday in an election the controversial incumbent hopes will elect him to serve a third term in office, it capped more than a month of popular protests by opposition candidates and their supporters against what many have called a "constitutional coup" by supporters of the corrupt regime.

The protests, that began in late January, have seen at least 6 people killed in clashes between police and protesters. In Dakar, the capital of this westernmost African country of 12 million, the protests have centered on a green square in the heart of the downtown suburb of Plateau a few blocks away from the presidential palace and known as Independence Square. In recent weeks, many of these protests have turned into street battles on side streets as the protesters have attempted to defy a ban against protesting in the square. The protesters, and even people going about their ordinary business, have been subjected to volleys of rubber bullets and clouds of tear gas from riot cops and in at least one case, sonic blasts from a US-made Long Range Acoustic Device. Yes, they are experimenting with the latest in crowd control technology in Africa, naturally. Angry youths have responded by throwing rocks and setting fires to tires and setting up barricades in the roads. These street battles would go on for hours and became widespread not only in Dakar but throughout Senegal.

A week ago, the police fired tear gas into a mosque belonging to the nation's largest Islamic brotherhood, the Tidianes, during Friday pray. This prompted fury among the faithful and a fresh wave of protests last Sunday.

"They violated the mosque by firing teargas into it, and we are here to tell them never again," said Soulaymane Diop, 33, as he watched protesters shouting "Allahu Akbar" (God is greatest) and hurling chunks of concrete at police in full riot gear.
Senegal is 97% Muslim with a history of secular government and religious tolerance. Most Senegalese follow one of four Sufi brotherhoods. The Sunday protested resulted in another death when a man was hit by a rubber bullet while buying bread in a bakery in the suburb of Rufisque. He was an innocent bystander. A protester was killed in another protest 25 kilometers from the capital after he was hit in the head and authorities said a 21 yer-old tailor died in the city of Kaolack, about 190 kilometers southeast of Dakar from injuries he received in a protest.
“Look at these bullets here, they want to kill us, they do this on purpose. Abdoulaye Wade, that’s enough, look at your bullets, your teargas, these kill if they touch you,”
cried another young protester at one protest as he held a rubber bullet in his hand.

Wade followed up that weekend with claims through spokesman Serigne Mbacke Ndiaye, that an unnamed candidate had appointed a retired army colonel to recruit a militia, made up of 200 ex-soldiers.

“Beyond these 200 soldiers recruited and led by the colonel, there are also youths being recruited in the neighborhoods and in the interior of the country,” Mbacke said.

“Those who think that we don’t know, let them understand that we have formally identified them. We know who’s in charge of recruiting, how much they are paid per day, who is financing it,” he said. “Those that are behind this plot are after one thing only — blood. That lots of blood be spilled in our country. The fundamental thing for them is that chaos installs itself in the country so that the nation becomes ungovernable.”

Many think that Abdoulaye Wade's game plan is to prepare his son Karim Wade, who, at 43, already heads four ministries, to replace him in power. They think Wade is trying to setup a neo-monarchy similar to that accomplished by Assad in Syria and attempted by Ben Ali in Tunisia, Murabak in Egypt and Qaddafi in Libya.

At 85 years old, Wade is running for a third seven year term even though the constitution limits the president to two terms. Angering many, Senegal's constitutional court has ruled that law doesn't apply to Wade because it came into effect after he became president. In fact, he introduced it, and that is not the only paradox in the way Wade is stubbornly clinking to power.

Former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo who is leading an African Union observer mission in Senegal, has called upon Wade to pull out of the race. Aware of the political climate in Senegal, Obasanjo said Feb 14, when he arrived "If necessary, my role will be more than that of a simple observer."

In 2007, after Obasanjo's supporters in Nigerian failed in their attempt to have the constitution amended so that he could stand for a third term, Wade said it was time for the Nigerian president to go. And although he had been a long time ally of Mummar Qaddafi, Wade that the first of the AU leaders to tell Qaddafi it was time to quit. But when its Wade's time to go, that's a different story.

The same court that ruled that Wade was eligible for a third term, also ruled that the leading opposition candidate, Youssou N'dour could not run because they questioned the authenticity of the signatures on his application form. It is not surprising that the opposition thinks the constitutional court is in Wade's pocket. Youssou N'dour has described the court's decisions as "a constitutional coup."  Alfred Stepan and Etienne Smith write in the Times of Oman:

Wade has been tinkering with Senegal’s constitution in dangerous ways ever since he was inaugurated in 2000. Of the 15 changes Wade made to the constitution, ten weakened democracy; the others were erratic, if not bizarre. For example, Wade at one point abolished Senegal’s senate, only to reinstate it after realizing that it could be put to use as a place to reward political allies. Likewise, he reduced the length of presidential terms from seven years to five, but later restored it to seven.

In February 2007, Wade was re-elected as Senegal’s president amid opposition charges that the election had not been free and fair. As a result, the opposition boycotted the June, 2007, parliamentary elections. That was a mistake, because the boycott gave Wade absolute control over the legislature, as well as the ability to appoint Constitutional Court judges unimpeded.

Last June, Wade attempted what would have amounted to a constitutional coup. The most recent credible opinion poll in Senegal, conducted the previous year, had indicated that Wade would receive only 27 per cent of the vote in the next presidential election. Given the existing constitution’s provision for a mandatory run-off if no candidate wins 50 per cent, Wade would almost certainly lose if the opposition parties united behind a single candidate.

Wade, recognizing this, tried to have the National Assembly amend the Constitution in his favor once again. Any candidate who won a plurality and at least 25 per cent of the popular vote in the first round would win the presidency. No run-off would be necessary.

Thanks to massive demonstrations, in which many popular artists played a role, Wade backed off.

As this "constitutional coup" was widely denounced by the opposition which adopted the slogan “Wade dégage!” (Wade out!) – reminiscent of “Ben Ali, dégage!” in Tunisia a year ago, it cause some observers to raise the question "An African Spring in Senegal?" The opposition parties formed the June 23 Movement [M23]  untied front, some Sufi religious leaders have asked for him to step down and governments of the United States and France also have called upon him to bow out, saying they would like to see a younger man take the job.

About 23,000 security personnel including the police and army voted in early balloting more than a week earlier and amiss many voter irregularities that have already come to light, it is widely feared that Wade is also rigging the election. 13 candidates are opposing Wade for the office and even with no leading opposition figure, Wade is unlikely to get a legitimate majority. His constitutional court had already ruled that the leading unity candidate, Youssou N'dour, ineligible, now there is a strong suspicions that Wade will rig the vote and the count so that he gets more than 50% in any case and doesn't face a run off. If this happens, the opposition vows to make the country ungovernable.

A long democratic history

The revolutionary wave that swept Europe in 1848 bestowed two great benefits on Senegal, which was France's only significant colony in Africa at the time. The first was that slavery was abolished in all French colonies, including Senegal and the newly freed slaves automatically became French citizens. The second was that universal male suffrage was extended to all French citizens, including those newly freed slaves. Before the year 1848 came to a close, the people of Senegal took part in national elections and chose the first person of color ever to sit in the French Parliament.  The further decree that the principal that any slave who reached French soil was freed also applied to Senegal made this tiny island of liberty a sanctuary for slaves from all over slave-holding West Africa, a kinda Canada of the African continent, if you will...

While the reality was never as good as the promise, slavery wasn't entirely eliminated from the interior until 1905 and runaway slaves were often returned, nevertheless, Senegal developed strong liberal democratic institutions. Elections have taken place regularly since Senegal became independent in 1960 and there has never been a coup.

France still maintains a permanent base in Senegal, Dakar, Senegal (23BIMa), with maybe 250 permanent personnel and rotating units coming from France. This base stems from a defense agreement Senegal signed while gaining its independence, today it is seen as a way for France to maintain a neo-colonial influence in Africa.

The World Capitalist Crisis Hits Senegal

Now, amiss rising food and fuel prices, and growing unemployment, especially for the youth, dissatisfaction has been rising with a regime that is widely seen as corrupt and self-serving, that is known for lavishing millions on grandiose projects leading to self-enrichment while letting the country's infrastructure rot, and that once boasted of its close ties to Mummar Qaddafi and his Libyan regime.

Probably the most famous Wade boondoggle is his $27 million dollar "African Renaissance" statue he commissioned just outside of Dakar. The 164ft statue is designed to be the centerpiece of a whole new tourist trap with new hotels and restaurants provided by Wade associates. Wade himself takes 35% of fees paid by tourists to see the statue and all merchandising profits and copyright because he considers it his "intellectual property." In a country with a 49% unemployment rate, the project didn't even go to a Senegalese company because Wade paid a North Korean firm, Mansudae Overseas Project Group, to build the statue. Christina Passariello wrote in the WSJ:

The African Renaissance is Mansudae's biggest work yet, measuring 164 feet high and crowning two barren hills in Dakar called "Les Mamelles" at the westernmost point of Africa. That makes it taller than either the Statue of Liberty (151 feet) or Rio de Janeiro's Christ the Redeemer (100 feet). The statue depicts a father holding a baby in his left arm. The man's right arm is around the waist of the baby's mother. The three are reaching out to the sky and out to the ocean.

"Its message is about Africa emerging from the darkness, from five centuries of slavery and two centuries of colonialism," says Mr. Wade.
In Senegal, however, the statue has been a beacon of discontent, sparking angry newspaper editorials and protests from religious leaders. The statue's sultry mother figure, dressed in a wisp of fabric that reveals part of a breast and a bare leg, has offended imams in this majority-Muslim country.

There was even a scandal about the land the statue was built on. Diplomatic cables [09DAKAR1069] leaked by WikiLeaks reveals it was built on state-owned land that had been given to a friend of Wade's, Mbackou Faye, who then sold a portion of it back to the government at an enormous profit. According to the cables, Faye is planning to build 270 luxury homes on the remaining portion.

Wade and Qaddafi, Senegal and Libya

Not long after Abdoulaye Wade's monster statue was finished in 2010, he received an email from Mummar Qaddafi asking how he could get one. Wade and Qaddafi had a long history together. Wade was a big supporter of Mummar Qaddafi's concept of a United States of Africa.

At a three day African Union meeting in Accra in 2007 both Libya and Senegal failed in a joint push to immediately establish a continental government. Pascal Fletcher in Reuters wrote:

Libya's flamboyant leader Muammar Gaddafi and octogenarian Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, who like to cast themselves as crusaders of African unity, both lobbied noisily for the immediate proclamation of a government for Africa.

But many states, including the continent's economic and political powerhouse South Africa, preferred a more cautious approach which sought to first strengthen regional economic communities before advancing to the political union goal.

In 2001, there was a scandal that saw Senegal recall its ambassador to Tripoli following an alleged attempt to smuggle 100 young women to Libya. The 100 so-called "models" were apprehended attempting to board a charter plane at Dakar airport. The allegation was that they were really prostitutes going to Libya to entertain at celebrations to mark the 32nd anniversary of the coup that put Gaddafi in power.

Before that, Qaddafi's Libya had trained many Senegalese rebels. One of the most important was Ibrahim Bah. His story tells us much about how Qaddafi was able to use his control of Libya's oil billions to influence events in Africa and around the world.

After fighting with the Casamance separatist movement in Senegal in 1970's, Bah trained in Libya under the protection of Mummar Qaddafi. In the early 1980s he spent several years fighting alongside Muslim guerrillas against the Soviet forces in Afghanistan, then he joined the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia to fight Israeli forces in southern Lebanon, returning to Libya at the end of the 1980s to train others who would go on to lead rebellions in West Africa, including Charles Taylor of Liberia and Foday Sankoh of Sierra Leone, founder of RUF. Bah himself later fought in both of these countries. More recently he is said to be the king maker in the West African blood diamond trade.

Part of the social displacement being felt by Senegal now is caused by the return of newly displaced Senegalese immigrate workers and mercenaries from Libya. Wades story about a mysterious "colonel" putting together a militia of 200 ex-soldiers was, no doubt, designed to play on the fears created by this situation.

Wade may have been good buddies with Qaddafi in the AU and in other areas as well but once the saw he way the chips were going to fall, he wasted no time in jetisoning him. Under Wade's direction, Senegal recognized the National Transitional Council as the legitimate opposition that should be supported in May of 2011 when the African Union was only calling for a ceasefire. The next month violent protests were breaking in Senegal over his attempts to create a vice-president's post because people feared it was part of a scheme to put his son in power. Wade wasn't too concerned. He was in Benghazi meeting with NTC chairman Mustafa Abdul-Jalil and publicly urging Qaddafi to quit, saying "the sooner you leave the better." Now those are words he doesn't want to hear said to him.

"Its time for Wade to go."

While the various western governments may be trying to distant themselves from Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade now that he is faced with rising opposition to his rule, he has been able to maintain his position because he has been very useful to them. The changes he made to the constitution to increase his power and ensure his rule were accepted by them because they also further opened up the country to foreign investment. Similar in many ways, to the situation in Ben Ali's Tunisia or Mubarak's Egypt, this exploitation by world imperialism has not benefited the people as a whole but it has given rise to an internal business class that has benefited and is therefore willing to defend the regime and the status quo.

Toby Leon Moorsom, an editor of Nokoko Journal of African studies, elaborates:

Wade's primary skill seems to have been signing cheques to foreign companies. By far the most significant achievement for Wade has been opening up mineral exploitation in the country's Toumbacounda region, facilitated by a $527m project to build the largest port in West Africa.

The port is being built in a public-private initiative with DP World - an affiliate of the Dubai World Group, a company that also took on an $800m deal to build and run a special economic zone, based upon the Jebel Ali free-trade zone in Dubai. The port facilitates the extraction of gold by a Canadian and Saudi company, Oromin Venture Group, and two other Canadian companies; Sabodala Mining and Lamgold Group. They are joined by Jersey-based Randgold, and the multi-national Arcelor Mittal. Numerous other valuable metals are found in the area, such as copper, chromium, lithium and uranium. The quantities seem to be less significant than the rare properties they offer for blending in new metal composites.

These minerals will make their way to port via massive road rehabilitation and construction projects, which have been doled out to companies such as Swiss-based SGS Industrial, and China's Henan Industrial Cooperation Group and APIX, the government investment agency. Many Senegalese find it painfully insulting that, after 50 years of independence, they still cannot even build their own roads.

Under pressure from the World Bank, Senegal has also been involved in the protracted process of privatising its water services, with an early electricity privatisation that initially involved Hydro-Quebec and later Vivendi, among others. Vivendi is the company so loathed in South Africa for its pre-paid meter system. These privatisation processes lead to rising household bills for working people whose wages have been stagnant.

These conditions have led to the development of a protest movement with some surprising strengths. Not only has it been strong in Dakar, it has gained a lot of support in smaller towns throughout the country. 77% of the labor force still works in agriculture in Senegal.  

A growing strike movement

There has also been a arising tide of labor struggles in Senegal since Ben Ali lost power in Tunisia and these have become more political. For example, recently there was a three day work stoppage by taxi and transport workers with near 100% participation to protest the rise in fuel prices, police harassment and bribery.

Before that, the union at the national broadcast company carried out a demonstration and brief labor disruption to protest the misuse of the company as a Wade propaganda machine in violation of journalistic ethics. The workers at Fox News could learn something from these Africans.

For the past three months there has also been a nationally coordinated strike of college and university professors that face growing class sizes but can't even afford decent housing.

In spite of these and other growing facets of the people's struggles, the leadership of M23 has been unable to really forge them into a unified struggle, provide the analysis to show how they are all connected, or provide a viable alternative. This is because most of these opposition candidates are themselves opportunists that have not stood on any principal and have been in and out of Wade's PDS party as the political climate suited them. They tend to limit their complaint to the whine "Wade's too old."

More recently a new group Y’en a Marre ["Had enough"] has emerged as an alternative to M23. Moorsom writes:

Y’en a Marre members reveal a greater interest in popular education and grassroots action, but are highly marginal in society and as a result face heavy police repression. They draw inspiration from a long history of non-violent anti-colonial resistance - especially as it existed among the Mauride Brotherhood - but they haven’t been able to extend it beyond symbolic gestures into actions that actually obstruct the economy or galvanize large crowds prepared for police violence.
So the mass opposition to the current regime has been growing but the organization and leadership of those masses is still badly limited.

Even in the early days of the Arab Spring, some of us, i know we had these discussions around WL Central, look forward to the spreading of that movement from North Africa south. We especially thought that the fall of Qaddafi in Libya would lead to dynamic and revolutionary change throughout the continent, such was the retarding effects of his meddling and control. Steven Cockburn raised similar questions in a blog he wrote over a year ago, on February 23, 2011 and titled Tunisia, Egypt, Libya...Senegal?

It’s a question on people’s lips, consuming many a column inch here. Could the dramatic scenes witnessed in Tunis, Cairo and Tripoli be played out in Dakar, Abidjan or Harare? Could the revolutions engulfing countries north of the Sahara spread their way south ?

So stay tuned to developing news from Senegal!  

Follow clayclai on Twitter

Tue Feb 28, 2012 at 12:25 PM PT: This piece is also highlighted and linked in today's The #African Daily

Tue Feb 28, 2012 at 12:46 PM PT: As of this hour there has yet to be an official announcement of the results of Sunday's presidential election but early results give Wade about 32% of the votes, meaning he should definitely face a runoff election. If the opposition unites around Macky Sall, who looks to come in second with 25% of the vote, Wade will not survive the runoff. As we await the official result, EU observers are questioning why the government is not publishing real-time results from the polls.

Fri Mar 02, 2012 at 5:37 PM PT: gobalpost: Senegal elections: official results confirm run-off

Senegal is to hold a second round of presidential elections after incumbent Abdoulaye Wade failed to win an absolute majority, election officials confirmed late Wednesday.

According to the first official elections results, Wade won 34.8 percent of the vote, meaning that he faces a run-off next month against his former prime minister, Macky Sall, who came second with 26.5 percent, the BBC reported.

The second round is expected to be held on March 18.

Sat Mar 24, 2012 at 10:07 PM PT: The presidential elections that resulted in a run off the last weekend in February are being held today. Unlike the February contest, in which the 85 year old long time incumbent Abdoulaye Wade, faced a dozen challengers, in today's vote all the opposition has united around its strongest candidate, Macky Sall who is widely expected to unseat the long time Qaddafi crony.

France24 has more details: Wade under pressure as Senegal holds run-off vote  
In depth analysis on Al Jazeera: Senegal's game of thrones  

Sun Mar 25, 2012 at 7:18 PM PT: This just in: Senegal's Wade concedes election defeat

Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade, 85, has conceded election defeat as results gave an overwhelming lead to his rival Macky Sall.

"We have confirmation now from the presidential office that Abdulaye Wade has telephoned Macky Sall to concede defeat," said Al Jazeera's Andrew Simmons, confirming a state television report that Wade had made a congratulatory phone call to Sall at 21:30GMT (9:30pm local time).


Sun Mar 25, 2012 at 8:36 PM PT: An appreciation of Abdoulaye Wade: Wade was president of Senegal for 12 years. Although he was Mummar Qaddafi's closest collaborator on his United States of Africa plans, he was never the sort of totalitarian ruler that Qaddafi was and when the Arab Spring reached Libya, we was among the first African leaders to advise Qaddafi to step down. Likewise in 2007 he publicly told Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo it was time for him to go when he met with overwhelming public opposition.

So he was widely ridiculed for insisting on running for a third term at the age of 85 in a country were the constitution imposes a two term limit. I ridiculed his "new math" here. Before today's vote, many feared that he would somehow steal the election, or refuse to go and challenge the outcome no matter what.

But instead he conducted himself as a gentleman and a true democrat, within three hours of the polls closing, and seeing that the vote was going strongly against him, he called Sall and conceded. In doing so he gracefully avoided prolonging a struggle that had already cost more than a half-dozen lives, and it was good that he did so. It is time for new blood, but he has left Macky Sall with some big shoes to fill.

Originally posted to Linux Beach on Mon Feb 27, 2012 at 02:04 AM PST.

Also republished by Black Kos community and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thanks for the update. (8+ / 0-)

    I wrote an honors thesis on the Constitution of Senegal in 1962.  The Senegalese Embassy in Washington had to order one up for me because they didn't have one on hand.
    I don't remember what I wrote and all books and papers got burned up in a house fire in 1974, but I do know my thesis was that the future of Senegal as a democracy was bound to be different because of the French tradition and the incorporation of the colonial population in government.
    Senghor, their first President served for a very long time.  He was also a poet and reflected, I think, the commitment to the arts and culture. The advent of a Wade probably reminds us that democracy does not flourish automatically.  The tree of liberty doesn't have to be refreshed with blood, it has to be regularly watered with the sweat of hard work.

    People to Wall Street: "LET OUR MONEY GO"

    by hannah on Mon Feb 27, 2012 at 03:18:48 AM PST

    •  That first paragraph is the best story ever :) (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      hannah, kyril, paul2port, Matt Z

      It's kind of ironic since Senghor actually liked legality, but it still tells you everything you need to know about that first generation of post-Independence leaders.  

      Wade was a great pro-democracy crusader...before he actually came to power!  So he's kind of textbook too.

      But nobody's buying flowers from the flower lady.

      by Rich in PA on Mon Feb 27, 2012 at 03:50:44 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  It's good news but not like the other cases (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kyril, paul2port

    I'm glad the Senegaiese, at least some of them, are doing something about their lunatic leader.  But unlike other Springs where people are rising up against actual tyrannies, in Senegal they're rising up against a pretty soft regime whose only crime is doing what leaders in Colombia, Venezuela, and New York City have done in recent years.

    But nobody's buying flowers from the flower lady.

    by Rich in PA on Mon Feb 27, 2012 at 03:54:15 AM PST

  •  Senegal is one of the poorest countries on earth (6+ / 0-)

    34% of its population lives on less than USD 1.25 a day.

    Economic pressures inflicted on the world by the 1% ineed have a trickle down effect.  Poor countries are affected the most, and the poorest citizens in those countries are disproportionately affected negatively.

    “Are you calling the Koch brothers during the recess?” - Henry Waxman

    by thenekkidtruth on Mon Feb 27, 2012 at 09:46:37 AM PST

  •  President for Life* (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    paul2port, Shockwave

    * in case of mortality, appoint my son as President

    That's what they got in Togo, as in Korea more recently, and it ain't nice.

  •  Not sure this is accurate framing or context (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    chidmf, Tonga 23, Sky Net

    I think you wrote a diary not too long ago about political protest in another African country and claimed it was an "occupy" movement.

    There is a tendency to see developments in sub-Saharan Africa always as a reflection of events elsewhere, or a reaction to events elsewhere.

    While I'm sure that many Senegalese have followed events in the Arab world, I don't see this conflict as part of the Arab spring.  It's much more a reflection of trends and context in Senegal, to some extent trends in French speaking West Africa and in West Africa overall.  

    Senegal wasn't a dictatorship so the idea of an African spring to dislodge a dictatorship doesn't make sense.  It has relatively few major parties and they are quite cordial with each other.  For a long time there was one legal party, the Socialist Party, under the leadership of the country's popular first president, Senghor, and when Senghor allowed "multiple parties," the "opposition" asked his permission and received assistance setting such parties up.  Wade was the beneficiary of that system.

    Also your attempt to portray Wade as some sort of pawn of Gadaffi is a bit of a stretch, and in fact much of what you've written is internally inconsistent (eg trying to link Gadaffi's attempts to destabilize Senegal under prior administrations as somehow proving that the leadership of Senegal was in cahoots with Gadaffi).

    I think a more accurate way of looking at it is that Senegal has had an extremely, extremely stable political system -- almost too stable.  Wade's two predecessors both served multiple terms amounting to about 20 years each, and it seems that Wade expected as much for himself.  I certainly don't see this as Wade attempting to make himself president for life or install his son has a successor; more like his simply believing that the full term of a Senegalese president is two decades, an assumption that has irritated Senegalese, which was why they changed the constitution in the first place.

    Wade has been a pretty bad president, but displacing him does not require the overthrow of a system as has happened in the Arab countries.  

  •  This is a great diary, but (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dopper0189, Tonga 23, Shockwave

    I have one tiny correction:

    Senegal, which was France's only significant colony in Africa at the time
    Algeria, which France invaded in the 1820's, give a BIG shout out here.

    "The rich are only defeated when running for their lives." - C.L.R. James

    by gjohnsit on Mon Feb 27, 2012 at 12:47:55 PM PST

  •  Great diary, very good background info! (0+ / 0-)

    -1.63/ -1.49 "Speaking truth to power" (with snark of course)!

    by dopper0189 on Mon Feb 27, 2012 at 12:55:39 PM PST

  •  a profile of Abdoulaye Wade by Aljazeera (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sophie Amrain, chidmf, Shockwave

    hrere and by BBC here.
    A commentary if this is an African Spring in Senegal is
    here, which said among others:

    Divided opposition

    It is true there have been riots in several cities, and the clumsy police response has made an already volatile situation even worse.

    But, I have to say, my feeling during five days in and around Dakar was that a popular uprising in Senegal is not imminent.

    For a start, the opposition is divided, and somewhat confused.

    Some believe that Wade is beatable in the elections, and want to get on with the campaign. N'dour, on the other hand, believes the process is a sham, but even he is not advocating a boycott of the polls.

    Wade, who is believed to be 85 years old, shows a depressing determination to cling onto power.

    My friend Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, a long term Dakar resident,  writes here how his star has faded.

    Real story

    There are superficial similarities with some of the dictators of the Arab world who have been toppled in the past year; a partiality for garish monuments, the apparent grooming of a son as a successor, and the constitutional meddling.

    Another similarity is the huge number of unemployed, frustrated young men in the cities.

    But there are also differences. Wade is not a vicious dictator. Senegal has a more open tradition of parliamentary democracy than Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria, and, in fact, just about every Arab country.    

    The next few weeks will be crucial.

    The presidential elections are due on February 26. The country is divided. There is the risk of a violent campaign and a disputed election.

    Never mind superficial comparisons with the Arab Spring; the real story is that Senegal's democratic credentials are under threat.

    The question is how good were the democratic credentials of Senegal during its past history.

    An essay about that you can find here and in a good overview in BBC article from 2000. when a peaceful change of power had just occurred.

    •  Thanks mimi, good stuff (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mimi, Shockwave
      Another similarity is the huge number of unemployed, frustrated young men in the cities.
      and I would add to that one more, a slavish submission of their national economy to the needs of multi-national corporations, for a fee, of course.

      I find it interesting that some will look at the difference in style and political method of Wade and Gaddafi, in accomplishing the same end, and make much about those differences.

      And, yes, I would much rather be shot with a rubber bullet than a real one when I protest so I recognize the difference but still I know many people in the occupy movement here that see it as connect to the Arab Spring and we live under a regime that is even softer than the one in Senegal.

      Remember history, Clay Claiborne, Director Vietnam: American Holocaust - narrated by Martin Sheen

      by Clay Claiborne on Mon Feb 27, 2012 at 05:35:09 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  oh wow, I couldn't read your diary during the day (0+ / 0-)

        just posted some links, because I was so happy to find a  diary about an African country here on dailykos and the scepticism with how it is received. So, I thought, a couple of mainstream links from BBC and Aljazeera can't hurt to read for those, who are too scared to read your stuff... :-)

        Now I was able to read it in full and I think it's a very thorough and up-to-date report. Wade is one of the kind old Daddy Africans, who don't want to go. Just because they are nice and play by the rules, as you describe here:

        While the various western governments may be trying to distant themselves from Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade now that he is faced with rising opposition to his rule, he has been able to maintain his position because he has been very useful to them. The changes he made to the constitution to increase his power and ensure his rule were accepted by them because they also further opened up the country to foreign investment
        doesn't mean they can't show their other sides when it comes to the point where they should leave power.

        Your sentence:

        Before that, the union at the national broadcast company carried out a demonstration and brief labor disruption to protest the misuse of the company as a Wade propaganda machine in violation of journalistic ethics. The workers at Fox News could learn something from these Africans
        made me chuckle.
        And this is always the case (unfortunately) in other countries even more, I think. But I never researched it to back it up, just what I briefly heard about oppositions to other countries "benign" African Daddy dictators.
        This is because most of these opposition candidates are themselves opportunists that have not stood on any principal and have been in and out of Wade's PDS party as the political climate suited them. They tend to limit their complaint to the whine "Wade's too old."
        And my guts feelings to this question:
        Could the dramatic scenes witnessed in Tunis, Cairo and Tripoli be played out in Dakar, Abidjan or Harare? Could the revolutions engulfing countries north of the Sahara spread their way south ?
        Very slowly and if they do, not in all countries in the same manner. But when it happens, in some of those countries it might turn into something very ugly. I would understand that the population would be too scared to join the rebels and opposition groups.

        And yes, I agree with you on this one:

        would add to that one more, a slavish submission of their national economy to the needs of multi-national corporations, for a fee, of course.
        And the fees better be high ... We ain't cheap around here no more.

        Looking forward to your diaries. Very good to read.

        I have no idea who you are, just your Linux Beach brings back some memories. I am now an old lady, who hates technology, but my first computer and my first rather huge website I built between 1994-96 was on a Linux box...heh, in the end it was too much for me, all the script language and Perl, hundreds of hours of coding and only some meager sales. Never again, but I can honestly say that I tried hard to do something with the internets back then...when everybody still had dreams about it.

  •  These ain’t no velveeta revolutions! (0+ / 0-)

    These ain’t no velveeta  revolutions... That age is over! This ain’t no disco, this ain’t no party, this ain’t no fooling around (to put it in doofus parlance). These are basically hunger riots—that’s not a good thing… like duh! Welcome to the age of hate… There is no spring in the desert...

    Nudniks need not apply.

    by killermiller on Mon Feb 27, 2012 at 05:16:46 PM PST

  •  For future African posts, try this context (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    angry marmot, Khun David

    I thought about your diary over night and would like to offer some constructive criticism since you seem, from your recent diaries, interested in Africa.

    The reason I think both an "occupy" and "Arab spring" context for understanding these struggles over democratization in Africa are wrong is that from an African perspective, this struggle over democratization has been going on for a long time.  I think many Africans and many Africa scholars would see Senegal in the context of a trend that started about 20 years ago in the early 90s.  There are lots of books and articles about the Africa-wide trend toward democratization that started then, and by using an occupy or Arab spring context, it's as though you are ignoring that 20 year trend in order to fit it into a "trendy" movement that's about 1/10th as old as the Africa trend.

    Africa experienced a wave of democratization about 20 years ago for 3 reasons:

    1.  The end of the cold war.  This meant that proxy conflicts between the Soviets and US ended, and the US ended its support of some of the worst dictators whose only qualities was that they were dependable allies against Soviet influence.  The most important was Mobutu of Zaire.  The US simply withdrew its support, but unfortunately this led not to democratization, but to 20 years of civil war and sub-continental war, sometimes referred to as "Africa's World War."  

    2.  The end of apartheid.  This led to the end not only of apartheid in South Africa, but to wars in Angola, Mozambique and Namibia.  With southern Africa no longer at war, the excuse for many countries being on a war footing and needing non-democratic unity in the face of South Africa was gone.  The settlement of Mozambique's war was based on the FRELIMO government there accepting the idea of multi party democracy that included its old enemy.  South Africa itself embraced multi-party democracy and in particular power sharing rather than Westminster style winner takes all democracy.  This idea spread rapidly across the continent as a way of solving intractable political problems.  In other words, South Africa is a much, much more important model than Libya or Occupy Wall St.

    3. The rejection of single party democracy.  This was really important because it was THE model for politics in many African countries.  Right after independence, most African countries adopted multi party democracy.  This often turned out to be a disaster as parties were thinly disguised ethnic or regional parties.  Combined with winner take all Parliaments, political conflict became intractable and led to several civil wars.  Several countries adopted the Leninist idea of single party democracy, even countries that weren't in the least bit communist.  The idea was that political conflict had to be contained within a party, in the same way that political conflict in the US is contained within a constitution and two parties.  Single party democracy is not as oxymoronic as it seems.  In Tanzania, for example, elections for seats of Parliament within the party were extremely competitive, with a much higher turnover of members of Parliament than in the US Congress.  Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Senegal and several other countries adopted single party democracy, but by the early 90s, there was a great deal of dissatisfaction with these systems and most adopted multi-party democracy -- again South Africa was the model, with power sharing replacing the single party as the means of containing political conflict.  This btw, explains why the South African government has taken such a kid glove approach to the Zimbabwe crisis.  While the west demands that Mugabe be deposed, South Africa has always insisted that the solution has to involve Mugabe's party sharing power with other parties.  After all if the international community forced the ANC to share power with the apartheid National Party, how can they claim that Mugabe's ZANU is somehow beyond the pale of being included in power sharing?  Senegal's current crisis is directly traceable to that country shifting from single party democracy (under the Socialist Party) to multi party democracy, with Wade being the first non-socialist to be elected president.

    In other words, I really don't think you need to squeeze 20 years of political development in Africa into a trendy one year old phenomenon.  

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