Cablegate: Senegal Scenesetter for Codel Kolbe

Published: Thu 29 Dec 2005 12:57 PM
DE RUEHDK #3213/01 3631257
P 291257Z DEC 05
E.O. 12958: N/A
REF: A) STATE 232253 (NOTAL),
B) DAKAR 3186 (NOTAL),
C) STATE 228797 (NOTAL)
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1. (SBU) As the Mission and the Government of Senegal
(GOS) prepare to host you, Senegal is on the verge of
entering a year-long election campaign leading up to the
2007 elections. The Senegalese are proud to be a
predominantly Muslim democracy that preaches tolerance and
visibly supports the United States in combating terrorism.
The investigation and prosecution of leading politicians
and journalists in 2005 has, however, tarnished Senegal's
impressive human rights record. Concurrently, the GOS is
seeking to enhance economic growth, both short- and medium-
term, to reinforce its prospects at the polls. Growth has
remained steady at five percent over the last decade.
Despite high rates of poverty and illiteracy, Senegal
retains a high degree of political stability and
coherence. This in turn enables it to be a diplomatic
player on a continent replete with conflicts. Senegal's
own two-decade old Casamance separatist movement is
talking about peace. With U.S. training and assistance,
Senegal has become one of the world's top ten contributors
of peacekeepers. Senegal aspires to become a more
significant trading partner, but internal barriers to
export-driven growth and continuing reliance upon foreign
assistance have greatly retarded these hopes. The
prospect of a successful private sector-driven Millennium
Challenge Account (MCA) Compact offers a realistic
potential for breaking with the past. Nevertheless,
Senegal must do far more to make its investment
environment attractive enough to entice serious foreign
capital, and also to utilize its own substantial domestic
liquidity. Among other factors, Senegal must push forward
more vigorously with reforms and strengthen its fragile
judiciary that is lacking sufficient resources and often
subject to external influences. Senegal could also do
much more to develop export agro-industry to benefit its
largely agrarian economy as well as develop its relatively
advanced telecommunications infrastructure. In addition
to discussing the MCA proposal and U.S. assistance, you
could usefully raise the human rights issue. END SUMMARY.
2. (SBU) Senegal is at an interesting juncture in its
post-independence history, almost six years through the
seven-year tenure of President Abdoulaye Wade (pronounced
"wahd") and a year before parliamentary and presidential
elections. Wade was a determined and persistent
opposition politician from 1974 who finally won an open,
peaceful and highly competitive election in March 2000.
His victory was as much due to a strong Senegalese
national desire for change after nearly 40 years of
socialist party governments, as it was in favor of the
"new" vision that Wade was offering. In fact, having
raised expectations somewhat unrealistically, Wade has
come under tough scrutiny and criticism for not having
realized many of his campaign promises. His government
also has not made much progress in implementing the
visionary projects he trumpeted while in the opposition.
Nevertheless, he and his party, the Senegalese Democratic
Party or Parti Democratique Senegalais (PDS), have been
successful in further institutionalizing democratic
values, respect for human rights, expansion of tolerance,
advancement of women's rights, and freedom of expression
in all its forms. As a consequence, the standards by
which the performance of his government is being measured
are admittedly higher than those of his predecessors, a
healthy sign that the large majority of Senegalese expects
democratic behavior from this government.
3. (SBU) In August, Senegal's National Assembly voted to
indict former Prime Minister Idrissa Seck on charges of
corruption and endangering state security. The corruption
charges are directly related to public works projects in
the City of Thies. Many Senegalese believe that the
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charges are unfounded and stem from President Wade's
desire to sideline a potential rival. In addition to
Seck, a number of his supporters have been detained and
interrogated by police, and two opposition politicians
were detained for two weeks and six months, respectively,
after calling for demonstrations against the Government.
Moreover, the GOS has pressed charges against Sud FM Radio
and the national daily Sud Quotidien for airing and
publishing, respectively, an inflammatory interview with a
Movement of Democratic Forces of the Casamance (MFDC)
military leader who said he would like to "meet Wade on
the battlefield with a kalishnikov." That trial is now
scheduled for January 6. Taken together, these cases
tarnish Senegal's otherwise impressive human rights
4. (SBU) Wade and other Senegalese leaders operate within
a unique context in Africa. In addition to the democratic
and tolerant environment noted above, Senegal is 95
percent Muslim. It is instinctively resistant to
religious extremism in general and Islamic fundamentalism
in particular. One reason for this moderation is
Senegal's distinctive, syncretic and flexible
interpretation of Islam. Another may be its geographic
position at the western edge of the Islamic world. But
perhaps the principal reason is the pervasive influence of
the Sufi brotherhoods, indigenous homegrown societies that
are hostile to external influences that could undercut
their religious or political authority. The overwhelming
majority of Senegalese identify themselves with one of the
four principal Brotherhoods (Tidjane, Mouride, Qu'adria,
and Layenne). Politicians use these affiliations to
advance their agendas. Furthermore, this religious
establishment has always closely associated itself with
and strongly supported the state, and has thus reinforced
a strong social contract that has been a bulwark against
more extremist religious views.
5. (SBU) There is general economic stability (a result of
traditional indigenous welfare values). Economic growth
has averaged five percent annually in recent years.
However, more than half the population lives in poverty,
one-third to one-half have no reliable employment, and the
agricultural sector (in which 60 percent of the population
is employed) is weak and unreliable. Historically,
agriculture has focused on peanuts as a cash crop adapted
to Senegalese soil and climatic conditions. But this
sector has been in decline for several years and is
unlikely to regain its former importance. Other major
exports include phosphates and cotton, but both face
6. (SBU) Senegal's manufacturing and services sectors are
hampered by major infrastructure weaknesses that prevent
Senegal from taking advantage of its favorable geographic
location. Senegal's underdeveloped road and dilapidated
railway systems do not provide adequate links to Senegal's
landlocked neighbors, who could profit from exporting
through Dakar's international port. Roads are overly
congested in major urban areas as well as poorly
maintained almost everywhere in the country. (The
Minister of Infrastructure, Equipment and Transportation
is only receiving about one third of what he considers the
minimum necessary to maintain existing roads.)
Electricity supplies are improving, but still very
expensive and far from universally available. This is a
problem for a rational industrial policy where Senegal
suffers a strong comparative disadvantage because of
expensive inputs such as electricity. The Port of Dakar,
the closest African port to the U.S. and Western Europe,
is in great need of modernization to meet the potential
demand of the sub-region alone.
7. (SBU) There are some bright spots though. Senegal met
its goals in the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC)
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program and achieved cancellation of its Paris Club debt
in July 2004. In December 2005, the IMF and the World
Bank announced the cancellation of USD 1.3 billion in
multilateral debt, potentially freeing up USD 80 million
in yearly debt-service payments. Senegal follows sound
macroeconomic policies and has maintained low inflation
and restrained public sector spending. The
telecommunications system is excellent by African
standards, and after South Africa, has the second largest
bandwidth available for Internet access on the continent.
An American company is rehabilitating the railroad between
Dakar and Bamako and has already made significant
progress. The national airline, Air Senegal
International, has been very successful as a sub-regional
entity and recently acquired a new Boeing 737 for both
domestic and regional service, with prospects of adding
another new 737 in the next year. However, Senegal has
not aggressively pursued becoming a FAA Category One
country meeting ICAO international air safety standards,
which would permit Air Senegal to initiate direct flights
to the United States. Nevertheless, the GOS is optimistic
that it will attain Category One before the end of 2006.
8. (SBU) Despite some successes the business environment
remains difficult. Senegal has traditionally been a
French and Lebanese expatriate business preserve.
Nonetheless, approximately 50 U.S. companies, including
Citibank, Pfizer, Colgate-Palmolive, IBM, Microsoft, Ernst
and Young, Fortesa Energy, Suffolk University, Boeing,
DHL, UPS, Western Union, and Caterpillar, operate in
Senegal. The American Chamber of Commerce in Senegal is
active and has many Senegalese entrepreneurs with ties to
the United States as members. Input costs remain very
high due to the weak infrastructure, insufficient
competition and rigid labor codes and practices. An
underfinanced and understaffed judiciary tends to favor
plaintiffs against foreign (and domestic) investors.
Corruption is an issue, and while Wade has said the right
things about combating it, members of his own family are
often rumored to demand bribes and percentages of
investments. While government rhetoric speaks favorably
of the benefits of the private sector, in practice the
Government involves itself in many major transactions and
potential investments that undermine the principles of
free, open and transparent competition. All of the above
are factors that need to be addressed alongside Senegal's
MCA Compact, as a more favorable business and investment
climate will be key to creating employment and to
increasing economic growth.
9. (U) Senegal's exports to the United States average
about USD 3 million per year, principally in frozen fish
and foodstuffs for West African immigrants. The
Senegalese government long believed that Senegal could
revive its once thriving role as a regional center for
apparel manufacture through African Growth and Opportunity
Act (AGOA) exports. While a few apparel companies are
preparing to take advantage of the AGOA here, government
and U.S. emphasis is now on preparing Senegalese
agricultural exporters to market high quality fish and
traditional West African agricultural products to the
United States. Other local farmers are pursuing exports
of off-season conventional fruits and vegetables, such as
green beans.
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10. (SBU) Senegal devotes major efforts to maintaining a
modicum of stability on its borders. While politically
Wade has worked hard to expand Senegal's role on the
continent and in world affairs, his government actually
expends real resources (financial, material and
humanitarian) with its near neighbors. For example, Wade
has been engaged in Guinea-Bissau since the September 2003
coup d'etat. Characteristic of Senegal's regional
anxieties, Wade and his government continue to express
great concern over the eventual transition in nearby
Guinea (Conakry) in light of the failing health of its
leader and the potential for disruptions there and a
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resulting influx of refugees to Senegal. Also, the
sometimes erratic behavior of Gambian President Jammeh,
who rules the strategically located strip of land that
juts into Senegal, raises Senegalese concerns over The
Gambia's stability.
11. (SBU) The internal conflict in Senegal's southernmost
Casamance region has regional security implications
because it borders The Gambia and Guinea-Bissau. During
the 20 plus years of conflict, some of the Casamance
combatants sought refuge in the neighboring countries.
Over the past few years, good progress has been made to
lower the level of conflict thus easing border tensions.
A definitive political resolution to the conflict remains
an elusive goal, but the Government and rebels signed a
formal cease-fire in December 2004, and a round of
negotiations was held earlier this year. We have tried to
use our influence with GOS civilian and military
institutions as well as with community representatives in
the Casamance to achieve reconciliation and a lasting
resolution to the conflict.
12. (U) In addition to supporting the Casamance peace
process, U.S. assistance to Senegal has focused on health,
education, export promotion, promotion of women's rights,
good governance and decentralization. Approximately 130
Peace Corps Volunteers are involved in health, education,
natural resource management and micro-enterprise programs.
An MCA Compact would more than double annual U.S. aid, and
Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) staff have labeled
Senegal's Compact proposal the most complex and the most
potentially transformative of any MCA proposal received to
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13. (SBU) In the 1990s the USG initiated the African
Crisis Response Initiative (ACRI), a military assistance
and training program, to provide African militaries with
the capability of participating in peacekeeping
operations, principally in Africa. One objective of this
program was to obviate the need for U.S. "boots on the
ground" in areas where U.S. interests were at stake.
Senegal was a major beneficiary and nearly 1,400 troops
received U.S. training under ACRI, which is now known as
the Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance
(ACOTA) program. This has paid major dividends through
the engagement of Senegalese troops in their traditional
areas of interest (Cote d'Ivoire) and in areas of
traditional interest to us (Liberia). Their troops are
also deployed in UN peacekeeping operations (PKOs) in
Darfur, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo
(DRC), where a Senegalese officer, Lieutenant General
(LTG) Baboucar Gaye, commands UN forces. Senegalese
paramilitary gendarmes also serve as civilian police in UN
PKOs in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Haiti and the DRC. In each of
these engagements the Senegalese have earned the well-
deserved reputation of being highly professional,
disciplined and respectful of civilian populations and
customs. Concurrently, the United States has continued to
strengthen bilateral cooperation through officer training
in the U.S.; an active visits program; provision of
military equipment; and successful regional deployments
(Liberia, Cote d'Ivoire, Sierra Leone) involving joint
operations. The current Armed Forces Chief of Staff, LTG
P.K. Fall, is a graduate of the Command and Staff College
at Fort Leavenworth, the former commander of ECOWAS troops
in Cote d'Ivoire, and a good friend of the United States.
14. (SBU) For the United States, Senegal represents our
most important francophone partner in Africa. Perhaps not
coincidentally, President Wade views himself as a good
friend of President Bush. He basked in the glow of the
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President's visit in July 2003, his December 2004 visit to
the White House, Secretary of State Rice and Secretary of
Agriculture Johanns' July 2005 visits, and invitations to
the last two G-8 summits. For Senegal, the United States
represents an attractive alternative to its historical
dependence on France. We also embody values that Wade
would like to establish in Senegal, particularly economic
ones. The basis of our economic successes stands in stark
contrast to Senegal's first 40 years of statist socialism.
However, there is a realistic appreciation among
knowledgeable Senegalese that the United States is not
likely to supplant France as its principal partner any
time in the foreseeable future.
15. (SBU) On terrorism, Senegal has been among the first
African states to recognize the dangers posed to its own
security by international terrorism. It has cooperated
actively with the U.S. in the global war on terrorism, and
Senegal has ratified 11 of the 12 key anti-terrorist
conventions and protocols identified by the U.S.
President Wade has also sent a set of draft laws to the
Ministry of Interior that would expand the definition of
terrorist acts and increase punishments for these acts.
Senegal is also leading regional efforts to combat
terrorist financing. Intelligence sharing and vigilance
along Senegal's borders is good and continues to improve
through well established channels. A word of caution,
though: Senegal has agreed to host the next summit of the
organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), tentatively
set for 2007. Because of a lack of resources, it will be
highly dependent on Islamic states to finance all the
arrangements. We have raised our concerns with Senegal's
leaders over the potential for unwanted influences from
radical Muslim states, such as Iran. The Senegalese have
tried to reassure us that they expect to receive adequate
financing from Senegal's "moderate" friends.
16. (SBU) We continue to scrutinize Senegal's
relationship with Libya and Iran. Thus far, Senegal has
done a good job of compartmentalizing and managing those
relationships to ensure that they do not act to undermine
Senegal's stability. We also continue to remind Senegal's
leaders that too close an embrace will neither be well
understood nor well appreciated in Washington. Thus far,
Wade has gotten the message. With respect to the
situation in Iraq, Senegal has been more neutral than
during the first Gulf War. (Senegal proudly provided
troops to help evict Saddam from Kuwait.) Senegal
resisted French pressure to take a more critical posture,
and in fact Wade publicly noted his satisfaction that
Saddam had been removed from power.
17. (SBU) Senegal under Wade is a good partner, very
sympathetic to U.S. interests, and regularly seeking ways
to deepen the relationship. Senegal is eager to receive
critical MCA funding, and the GOS hopes to conclude its
Compact in 2006. Economically, Senegal continues to seek
U.S. partners and participants to improve its economy,
especially in agro-industry and transport. A larger
number of U.S.-trained personnel sympathetic to the
American way of doing business now occupy more key
governmental, business and civil society positions than
ever before, and this trend is growing, especially in
education and the private sector, where it is greatly
enhanced by new technologies.
18. (SBU) Bilateral relations are very warm and continue
to deepen as we expand our areas of cooperation and seek
additional sectors of mutual benefit. Senegal also
carefully considers potential U.S. reactions to its
particular foreign policy decisions, sometimes responding
favorably when we express our concerns, or when we seek
GOS support. In sum, Senegal enjoys a close
identification with the United States and many of our
policies and values. We just need to be mindful of the
human rights issues and of some Senegalese sensitivities
to too tight of a public embrace.
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