Floods and Politics in Senegal

VOA‘s Peter Tinti had an interesting yesterday today on flooding and politics in Senegal. The article discusses President Macky Sall’s proposal, made at the end of last month, to disband the country’s Senate in order to free up funds for flood relief. As Reuters points out, “The measure would be the second time the Senegalese Senate was abolished since its creation in 1999. Sall’s predecessor Abdoulaye Wade abolished it in 2001 to save money but later reinstituted it in 2007.” According to Seneweb (French), the National Assembly’s Laws Commission has passed measures scrapping the Senate (and the Vice Presidency as well as the Economic and Social Council). Now these measures will go to parliament. Some Senators, in an effort to ensure that they retain government employment, have sought the help of the country’s religious leaders (French).

VOA also describes some of the bottom-up aspects of flood response in the Dakar suburbs:

Some neighborhoods in the crowded, low-income suburbs outside Dakar have been underwater for weeks.
In the Guediawaye suburb, volunteers are pumping water out of a retention basin built by the government in previous years.
It has not been enough.
Young men are digging more canals to direct more water toward the basin and out of residential areas.  Some of the men are volunteers, while others say they are being paid by the mayor’s office.
Experts say many of the submerged houses in the suburbs are built on low lands and flood-prone areas.  Construction of much-needed drainage systems and other infrastructure has not kept pace with rapid urban sprawl over the past generation.
In 2009, the government launched a controversial resettlement initiative, moving thousands of families out to a newly constructed suburb outside Dakar.  But the residents who have remained in this neighborhood say more needs to be done.

VOA reports that the proposal to scrap the Senate is popular. Assuming that it goes forward, attention will then turn to how the money saved will actually be spent. The government will face choices, it seems, between strengthening infrastructure and moving residents.

Interestingly, this is not the first time that flooding and parliament have been linked in politics debates in Senegal. In 2005, Sall’s predecessor President Abdoulaye Wade caused outcry with his suggestion to delay parliamentary elections from 2006 to 2007 in order to release funds for flood relief. The elections were ultimately delayed to 2007. At the time, opposition leaders accused Wade of using the floods as a “pretext” to manipulate the electoral calendar in ways favorable to his own party. I am actually a little surprised that a similar charge has not surfaced now – namely, a charge that Sall is politicizing the floods to his own advantage. In any case, the devastation caused by floods in Senegal has several times sparked important debates about how resources are allocated at the top.

5 thoughts on “Floods and Politics in Senegal

  1. Senegal has a reputation as a stable democracy. Even so, hastily abolishing a chamber of the legislature to free up relief funds seems fishy. Countries can have too many legislators, and a bicameral structure may not be the right fit for Senegal. Citizens of Senegal, be very suspicious of this proposal.

  2. I guess you know that, while it took a couple of days, the PDS in particular did accuse Sall of using the floods as a convenient excuse to dismantle the Senate. There were some suggestions that it allowed him to circumvent distributional conflicts within the BBY coalition associated with the scramble for positions within the chamber. In this regard, it is interesting to note that Sall’s announcement occurred after electoral lists had been deposited but before the set of valid lists had been announced. Critics also pointed out that dissolving the Senate would not do much in terms of freeing up funds. In any case, there was a lot of popular pressure and pressure within his coalition to get rid of the Senate, as had been recommended by the Assises Nationales. Great blog, by the way.

    • Hi Amy, thanks for sharing this perspective. I had not heard the angle about distributional conflicts within his coalition before. It’s an interesting point.

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