Date: Wed, 29 Mar 1995
Sender: Senega-L <>
From: Dama Babou

On the new government of Senegalese President Abdou Diouf

By Dama Babou. 29 March, 1995.

On Wednesday March 15th Senegalese President Abdou Diouf Decided to form a new Gvt after months of discussions with opposition leaders, religious leaders, trade unionists and the leaders of what's now known to be the civilian society.

In the end, President Abdou Diouf was able to convince only Abdoulaye Wade and his party, Partie Democratique Sénégalais (PDS) to join the cabinet. Wade was the most popular opposition leader in the country. Wade is now in charge of a ministry, as are four members of PDS.

Besides being a cabinet member, Wade did not seem to get much of what he had asked for. He did say months ago that his party would not go along if [it were] awarded the management of [the] country 's finances. He wanted also that half of [the] ministries be held by non- Partie Socialiste (PS) members. PS is President Diouf's Party. Further more, his demand to reduce de size of the cabinet [was] not at all met by Abdou Diouf.

The new cabinet is 34 member strong against 29 from previous cabinet. The ministry of finances is still in the hands of Pape Ousmane Sakho who [has been] in charge of it since 1993. Out of 34 members, the opposition members account only for ten. Diouf tried very hard this time to have Mr. Landing Savane on his team. [He] said [that] his would not a government led by and his party, PS, [which is] the same which he says brought the country in this state of deep crisis. And Mr. Savane now says even though his personal relationships with Wade remained good, it is today pretty clear that their political association is no longer viable. Finally, what ended up being the main topic of discussions is departure of Mr. Djibo Ka, who was Interior minister. Mr. Ka did engage in a power struggle against Tonor Dieng, the most close adviser to the President Diouf.

Even though Abdoulaye Wade got 32% of the popular vote in the last presidential elections, his party has always [had] a credibility problem; specially with the intellegensia. This is the second time Wade Joined Abdou Diouf, but to understand what led to the forming of this new government, we need to give some background information. For years, the country was blocked by various difficulties: the economy was in deep crisis. The education system was in quasi-permanent strike. And the country's standing with international finance organization was no longer as good as it used to be.

Senegal was one of the first African countries to try to implement democracy. Even before our independence from France in 1960, the political system was based on pluralism and had a long experience of multiparty elections. President Senghor, first president of the country, had managed to weaken the system with respect to multiparty democracy. After many attempts to suppress the opposition, Senghor was successful in isolating the most radical segment of it in 1966; (PAI, one group from PRA Senegal, Cheikh Anta Diop and number of his supporters).

Other segments of opposition which were less radical and the most opportunistic groups were absorbed by the regime. Therefore, for the first time since the independence, the country experiences a one party system. That parenthesis lasted only eight years.

Immediately after this success, Senghor is faced with the general strike of 1968. Even though the 1968 movement was universal, the regime Senghor government was almost overthrown. Rumors of his departure was widespread. For months, the only visible authority in the country was Amadou Cledor Sall, the then governor of Cap Vert region which comprises the Capital, Dakar. The decision by the trade - union leaders to end the strike gave little respite to gvt. Many semi-underground groups kept the fight against the new one party rules. Soon after the "pacification" of that situation, Senghor asked Abdoulaye Wade in 1974, to form a new party, self-described Partie de Contribution.

The party named Partie Democratique Sénégalais (PDS), made quickly some significant inroad among the masses of discontents in the countryside; mainly from the ruling party led by Senghor himself. But Senegal like most the third world countries, had its opposition groups concentrated in the big cities. Specially Dakar University and The students kept the country in a cycle of political and social crisis. The new party had a credibility problem with the intelligensia. Abdoulaye Wade came from Union Progress[iv]iste Sénégalaise (UPS). He also started as a contributionist and was directed by the sitting president to form the party. In 1976 Cheikh Anta Diop and groups from the underground movement lunched a new party called Rassemblent National Democratique (RND).

The least one can say about reaction of the regime is that it was panicky reaction. First, Senghor suspended illegally the Constitution by saying that he would grant the new party legal right to exist before changing this same fundamental law of our country. After two years of legal wrangling, the led by Bruno Cheramy; a French citizen, legal adviser to Senghor, said the government's refusal was illegal, but the foreclosure period had expired to file suit.

The political decisions drawn from the court's findings were that the party would cease working openly. While the legal battles were going on, RND gained strong support in the country of people from all walk of life. From 1976 to the second half of 1980, the had become very difficult to control by Senghor. Sudes, the then powerful teachers and professors' trade - union had completely paralyzed the school system. The farmers for first time, sat up their own trade - union, and started boycotting government circuits of commercialization of agricultural products. The fishermen joined the same bandwagon in lunching their trade - union. All in all, Senghor was forced out. His then prime minis ter Abdou Diouf, took over.

The new president made some clever political moves. He granted legal right to exist to all parties under- or semi-underground party. Made calls to the teachers' union Sudes to overhaul the school system (États généraux de l'education). And finally, he raised prices paid to the farmers. The immediate results of this moves were to weaken the opposition. Chei kh Anta Diop softened greatly his stance toward the government, which led to the breaking up of RND. The smaller groups who obtained their legal right to exist, showed that they were less strong than previously thought. Abdou got a very good honeymoon.

His first serious challenge came with the 1983 elections. Abdoualye Wade mounted a very strong electoral campaign. Even though the television was controlled by the government, his team used very well the little they got from that medium. The results of the elections were widely believed to [be] rigged. Weeks following the voting day were marked by protests and rallies against the regime. But the calm came back soon after. The new challenges came from within Abdou Diouf's own party, Le Partie Socialiste (PS). Senghor's former companions (Les Barons) did not take well Diouf's taking over. The infighting had demoralized scores of Diouf's supporters Moreover, most of the changes people hoped to see with the new president did materialize.

It was in this climate that Abdou Diouf entered the electoral campaign of 1988. These elections turned out the most painful moments for Diouf in his long political Career. Even now many people think that Abdoulaye Wade was winner of these elections. Anyhow, that was what the street thought. That was why as soon as the results were known, Dakar and some other cities got into turmoil. Violence was all over the streets. Wade and many opposition leaders were jailed. Senegal was alltogether paralyzed. Abdou Diouf was force into negotiations with Wade. Everyone in the country remembers the painful speech calling Wade to negotiate, delivered on TV by Abdou Diouf who appeared at lost. The first serious negotiations between Diouf and Wade took place at that time. After two years of direct and indirect talk Adoulaye Wade finally joined Diouf's cabinet in 1991.

New era opened with respect to association of opposition forces to management of the country's affairs. What used to happen up to that date was, part of the opposition dissolved itself in the ruling party. This time around Wade and party join Diouf but they keep their party apart. Which made possible for to resign when they decided go to Thee 1993 elections against Diouf and his party. After the much contested results of the elections were out, Diouf and still managed to stay in contact; they even were planing to from government of national united.

But in the meantime, the Judge Babac ar Seye was assassinated for political reasons, and Wade and some of his people were charged with that assassination. They had wait 'till the month of July 1994, to be absolved.

PS: I'm sure that this contribution is very long and is full of mistakes. But it's my hope that it will be of little interest for the subcriber the List. Waiting for the members' remarks, suggestions and criticism.

Saluts à tous et à toutes,

Dama Babou

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