The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Senegal:
Demonstrations As Living Conditions Get Worse

Nov 8, 2010

This article is from the October 4th issue of Le Pouvoir aux Travailleurs (Workers Power), published by UATCI, a revolutionary workers’ organization active in Africa.

Demonstrations broke out in neighborhoods of Dakar, the capital of Senegal. The population was angry about water and electricity cutoffs and a rise in the price of food.

People went out into the streets to express their anger against the government. It did nothing to solve the constant cut off of water and power. For years, the government said it was going to fix these problems. It’s all a pack of lies – conditions have only gotten worse.

The Dakar area, with a big majority of Senegal’s population, isn’t the only area affected. It’s the same in other big cities. In Ziguinchor, the main city of Casamance, more than a thousand people protested in the streets on September 4th. In July, a riot broke out in Mbour when power went off just as people were watching the World Cup soccer matches. Young people went into the streets, destroying power company offices. There were violent clashes with the police. There were also demonstrations in Saint-Louis and Thi s.

Homes in rich neighborhoods have electric generators so they won’t have to suffer from the power failures. And blackouts are less common in rich neighborhoods compared to poor areas. The poor suffer blackouts several times a day. Sometimes current is cut off for several days in workers’ neighborhoods.

The worsening of people’s general living conditions led them to go out into the streets. Besides water and power outages, there were floods following the storms in workers’ neighborhoods. Several thousand people had their homes ruined. The government didn’t even aid them. Entire neighborhoods remain under stagnant water. Instead of removing the water, the authorities accused the inhabitants of not maintaining the few existing drains, which were blocked.

Besides these problems, there is the high cost of oil, bread, onions and fish. People can no longer find canned gas for cooking.

After all these frustrations, the inhabitants of poor neighborhoods responded to calls to demonstrate.

In the city of Saint Louis, an imam, a retired government employee, tried to mobilize the inhabitants of the poor neighborhoods against the power company. An association of self-employed tailors called for a boycott of power bills. When the power was cut, they had no income. Fishermen told the authorities that when the power was cut off they couldn’t provide fish. They had no means to preserve the fish without power. Merchants also protested that fresh produces in their refrigerators spoiled.

The government’s inability to find solutions to sustain the water and power supply has become normal. This government increased angry discontent.