Protests Erupt In Senegal Over Worsening Power Cuts

The protests followed a riot last week over an attempt by President Abdoulaye Wade to alter the constitution in a way his rivals said would make it easier for him to get reelected in February polls and eventually hand power to his son.

“Hundreds of young people ransacked the Senelec office and burned it,” Ismail Diop, a resident of the Dakar suburb of Ouakam, told Reuters.

“Now they want to burn the Monument of Renaissance but the Gendarmerie was rushed there to seal it off,” he added, refering to a Dakar statue built by Wade in 2009.

Senegal’s military was deployed to protect strategic points in the city, an official source told Reuters on condition of anonymity. A Reuters witness saw truckloads of security forces armed with tear gas grenades moving through the streets.

Senegal has earned a reputation as West Africa’s most stable and democratic country but is seeing rising public frustration over backsliding public services, particularly in power generation, since Wade took power in 2000.

Wade proposed a change to the electoral law earlier this month that would have reduced the proportion of votes needed to be elected president in the first round to 25 percent from a majority, and would have created the post of vice president.

The proposal triggered riots last week and Wade withdrew the bill before parliament could vote.

Senelec has been unable to keep up with electricity demand for years and a source at the company said it was currently facing a “huge shortage of fuel”. Reuters