Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Senegal round-up: Street hawker eviction postponed, but what gives?

The government of Senegal postponed until January a controversial measure to evict thousands of street sellers from Dakar’s centre ville, Reuters reports. The announcement comes just days after the plan sparked the fiercest riots seen in the country in years.

After meeting with representatives of the street traders' association, Dakar Mayor Pape Diop suspended the measure, announced by President Abdoulaye Wade last week in an effort to reduce lengthy traffic jams choking the coastal capital and hampering business.

"We talked to the mayor and he allowed us to carry our activities till after New Year," said Cheikh Diop, president of the street vendors on Dakar's main Georges Pompidou avenue. "But (the mayor) said we should be careful not to slow down the traffic."

The disturbances were fueled by widespread popular discontent at rising prices and high unemployment, which forces many young men to risk their lives as illegal migrants to Europe.

Security forces are asking vendors not to set up their wooden stalls but sell only goods they can hold in their hands.

"If I had another job, I would not sell shirts and socks in the streets. This is the best I can do in this country. If they create jobs for us, we will stop selling in the streets," said Alioune Ngom, a 22-year-old vendor.

The riots capped off more bad news for Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, leaving at least one Dakar-based blogger to ask: What’s the end-game in Senegal?

With hoped for US millennium challenge account aid still not forthcoming for some reason, journalists being put in jail from time to time, the assembly empty of opposition following a boycott, Karim Wade, the president's son handling millions in Kuwait money for city renovation and construction ahead of a many times delayed summit of Islamic states, Senegalese youth continuing to flee to Europe by pirogue, meals getting harder to come by in poor areas, people still not finding work, while Dakar is getting a cleaner and cleaner look in some ways, yet more and more polluted in others, the only West African country "never to have had a coup" in typical journalistic parlance, may be in for some more action.

Finally, we recently discussed Senegal’s proposal and its affect on our friends in the informal sector.

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