cc E SMacky Sall should be supported, but people should be suspicious and vigilant. He is, after all, Wade's protégé.
For peasants and petty traders living under feudal monarchies, the only thing worse than living with a plundering despotic king was not having one. When a king's excesses led dissidents to seek a pretender, everyone suffered. During wars, harvests were stolen and the youth disappeared into armies and prostitution. Perhaps, the best portrayal of these circumstances is Bertold Brecht's brilliant play, Mother Courage and Her Children, set amid Europe's "Thirty Years' War".
For the majority of Senegalese citizens, the outcome of recent elections is seen as a victory insofar as it allows some calm to pervade the tense streets, as people return to their drudgery. There is no doubt the winner, Macky Sall, gained jubilant support. He proved himself an effective politician by maintaining coolness and professionalism, while the fantastical rhetoric of his opponent, Abdulaye Wade, increasingly revealed signs of senility. Macky on the other hand, showed a level of humility, an ability to work with others. He also made populist appeals, recognizing the fact that many in society are suffering.
As the election results came in many were overtaken by a sense of euphoria and pride in the fact the country was able to ride through a tough political moment without descending into a crisis like that recently experienced in Cote d’Ivoire. Yet, aside from this, throughout the election process most people I spoke to were pretty cynical. They suspect all politicians to have been involved in stealing from the people. It appeared to most a lot like a turf war among drug lords. What matters to those elected did not seem to be the people on the street so much, as who gets to control the spoils.
LIBERAL FREEDOMS MATTER
It is important, however, not to understate the significance of halting the rapid decay into authoritarianism that was previously taking place – and supported by vitriolic rhetoric by Wade, treating the protestors as scum needing to be swept up. As election results came through following the first round, showing Wade's massive decline, the authority of the police on the streets was immediately deflated - rather than occupying the centre of streets, surrounding Independence square, they were relegated to the sidelines. They even acted politely toward passerbys. Wade massively misjudged his capacity to win the election. Even as he applied every trick of fraud he could manage, he was far from being able to pull a Mugabe or shut the polls as Kenya’s Kibaki did in 2007 when he appeared to be losing.
The protests and police violence in Dakar, made it clear that one should never underestimate the value of liberal-democratic freedoms, even if they are primarily symbolic and therefore don’t actually alter power relations in society. Even Wade supporters I spoke to were shocked by the events of Sunday, February 19, which saw spontaneous anger unleashed toward police in every part of the city.
In Dakar's poorest suburb of Rufisque, a young man was shot dead with live police ammunition, bringing the total number of deaths in recent weeks to at least seven. Cities across the country faced similar situations. Perhaps most significantly, the youth had targeted the main transport routes. Whether they knew it or not, this was one of the critical tactics that led to independence in so many countries across this continent. This was probably the day Wade lost the election if he had not already by then.
Macky Sall should be supported, insofar as he is clearly indicating a willingness to implement a number of changes to limit powers of the future president and to increase space for public political expression. Beyond that, people should be suspicious and vigilant. Sall is playing the media spotlight exceptionally well, but he is of course, Wade's protégé. He claims that he will work to alleviate poverty and address healthcare and education. The problem, however, is that he has been remarkably vague on how he expects to accomplish these. More importantly, his past actions show him to have been a key ally of the global one per cent.
TAKING STOCK OF THE STATE
The basis of Senegal's current gang-war politics stem partly from the fact the state coffers are like Swiss cheese (Swiss Cheese was, quite appropriately, the name of the military paymaster in Brecht's Mother Courage). Idrissa Seck was Wade's former prime minister, but implicated in mismanagement of funds for road building and imprisoned in 2005, with Sall playing a key role as Wade's henchman.
Seck then accused Sall of misappropriation of public funds, amounting to seven billion CFA francs ($3.5million). Charges against Seck were dropped, but Sall then fell out with Wade in 2008, when he started to ask questions about his son Karim's management of state building contracts.
This is high-profile stuff, but the more insidious problem with the holes in state coffers is that much of the misuse of funds occurs somewhat legally. The liberalisation and privatisation agenda has seen public servants creating companies that pick up various outsource contracts at greatly inflated rates.
Wade created an anti-corruption Authority for Regulating Public Contract in 2007, but the same year, it reported that more than 70 per cent of government deals were not properly vetted. When the authority found Karim Wade involved in a reportedly shady deal with US company Global Voice, the president claimed it did not have authority over presidential contracts.
Money has flowed quite blatantly to Wade's son and daughter - the latter organising a massive international music and arts festival in 2010 that brought musicians from all over the world. Some have reportedly still not been paid. But it's the land deals and the telecommunications contracts that are much harder to dig up and challenge, in part because, the forms of corruption take place through private contracts, over which members of government have managed to use their control as a form of rent to write in percentages of profits to themselves. Wade even did this with his statue.
The day after the first round of elections, Sall was still boasting of having been in Wade's inner circle. Yet the day after that, he was claiming that if he were to win, he would perform a full state audit and create more transparency in government. Even if he were involved in past thieving, this would no doubt be a positive step. But what kind of economy does he envision beyond that? More importantly, what portions of the economy is he not talking about?
Sall also suggested that key aspects of his economic policy would be to lower the cost of living (you would think he might contemplate increasing wages here, but that has yet to be proposed by any candidate).
He also said he would create jobs by spending 300 billion francs ($150 million) on investment and tourism development, a job-creation project to create 500,000 jobs via youth entrepreneurship in leisure activities and tourist crafts, give tax exemption to 80 per cent of retired ex-pat residents to draw them back to Senegal for six months a year, restructuring of the tourism sector (almost, without doubt leading to the privatisation of state resources) and an increase in VAT tax on tourism services.
This should be seen as utterly offensive to most people in Senegal, especially so because this comes from a man who was a minister of mines and marine resources. People want restrictions placed upon foreign fishing vessels in their waters, so they can get their fishing industry back. They want their agriculture industry to be revived. They want decent wages from their employers.
They would probably also like some of their mining resources to support secondary industries that could employ university graduates. The problem, however, is that many Senegalese are still unaware of the mining boom currently taking place in their country. The fact Sall is so quiet on this matter should lead people to ask some very significant questions about his role when he was the minister responsible.
Macky Sall was also once the head of the state petroleum company, which you might think would make him a little sceptical about gambling the country's future on air travel, as global reserves are declining. Aside from the limited practicality of the plan, does he really think the youth in Ye'n a Marre are aspiring for careers as yes-men for European vacationers? Moreover, resort locations are already experiencing a downturn as a result of the financial crisis. People want dignity, not further servitude.
POLLUTERS AND THE ONE PER CENT
The likely reason Sall is silent about Senegal's biggest prize is that he was allegedly involved in handing it over to the world's biggest polluters and human rights offenders. I'm referring here to the West African Birimian geological belt in Tambacounda, found to have more than 10 million ounces of gold resources.
Sall was minister of mining when the constitution was changed to open it to international exploration. The Canadian company, Teranga Gold Corp, made off with a 1,500km claim, and has since suggested "Senegal is developing into a world-class gold district, for which Teranga Gold holds one of the largest land positions on the belt".
Oxfam has claimed that the population displaced by an adjacent Australian firm now lives in extreme poverty [Fr">. No studies have examined the plight of those impacted by other mines. Extreme poverty among the local population really isn't so bad for the company, however, as it wants a compliant workforce to keep it operating 24 hours a day.
The problem manifested itself when protests against poverty and a lack of jobs in 2008 turned into a riot, where 26 were arrested and two were killed.
In Kedougou, where at least one person was fatally injured during rioting, the governor, Mamadou Diom, acknowledged that the unrest was caused, in part at least, at the perception of the mines not employing local workers.
Diom is reported, in a leaked US cable marked "Confidential", to have said: "People need to understand that large scale gold mining is very new and that jobs, especially those needing skilled labour, won't be available overnight."
He was later somewhat unsympathetic to his constituents. "They are lazy here," Diom is reported to have said. "All they want to do is strike it rich working in small time mines and then blow their money on women and booze." To be fair to the companies, they reportedly pay about three times the average national income and have comparatively strong records for worker safety, but there are additional questions about how long the mines operate, whether workers gain transferable skills. It is worth examining track-records.
Among the executives at the region's Teranga gold mine, Kathy Sipos and Yani Roditis are two of the vice-presidents, both of whom have had extensive careers at Barrick Gold and have worked on mining operations in Peru, Chile and Argentina - a point I will come back to.
Another Canadian and Saudi company, Iamgold, is taking part in the gold rush in Senegal. Its CEO is, Stephen JJ Letwin. Letwin is a former vice-president of Enbridge, the company building pipelines across North America to transport tar sands extractions [PDF">. One such pipeline is embroiled in controversies with some of Canada's first nation (native) communities who don't want it destroying their ecosystems.
Benjamin Little, another former Barrick Gold employee, also sits on Iamgold's board. Little sits on the on Canada-Peru Chamber of Commerce. This brings us back to issues of Latin America.
Canadian gold corporations have been key targets of massive indigenous resistance movements. In Peru, where Canadian companies have invested more than $2.3billion, a crackdown on indigenous protesters by the Peruvian government killed at least 50 people. One important comment on this has been written by Todd Gorden.
Many Senegalese have been outraged by the seven deaths of protesters and have sought support from the international community to stop Wade's terror. The reality, however, is if Peru can get away with killing 50 protesters without an outcry from international officials, why would they care about seven in Senegal?
These are the people who are making off with millions that could otherwise be used to support welfare programmes and economic diversification in Senegal. In 2003 one executive member, Paul Olmstead, pulled in a salary nearly $600,000 from Iamgold. That was before the deposits even turned up any gold and stock options are considered. How much are they making now and how much is going to their investors? What percentages are going to the Senegalese people and in what form?
Sure enough, wages for miners are involved, but my own sources in Dakar tell me those are about $7000 a year – great when compared with the average annual income of $1100, but it sure doesn’t go far when just about everything is imported (even the national staples of rice, potatoes and onions). You would be very hard pressed to find a Senegalese person making $7000 who thinks this arrangement is fair. Stephen Letwin, is blatantly aware of the fact that “Over the course of time, they're going to want more of a take” .
Beyond the lost potential revenues of these companies, one should question what the long-term environmental impacts might be. One key reason for doing this is that the annual reports of these companies make it quite clear they are planning a hit-and-run operation. Teranga’s are optimistic about only 10-15 years (this is a new projection, up from the mere 9 years they originally planned). But what then will happen to those who worked in the industry? What then will happen to those who lost their grazing land and who then will be responsible for cleaning up any environmental damage?
The track-record of many of these players is not good. Chet Idziszek is the president and director of Oromin, another company involved. In 1990, he won "mining man of the year" award (I guess it is presumed they are always men) for his role in "developing" the Eskay Creek in British Columbia, Canada. The Eskay Creek Mine is in the headwaters of the Unuk River in British Columbia, the traditional territory of the Tahltan First Nation. Barrick purchased the mine in 2001 from Homestake, and opened it in 1995. It was reportedly depleted by 2008 and closed.
For a short time, Tahltan enjoyed near full employment. But the native jobs tended towards truck driving, catering and chamber-maiding. By the time Barrick Gold called it quits in early 2008, the Tahltan Iskut community had little to show for it, except for two tailings lakes that, according to Mining Watch [PDF">, are likely heavily polluted. One cannot know, however, because laws in Canada protect mining companies from having to tell the public details about their operations.
These cases are particularly disturbing when one considers the fact that that most of this gold will not be used to develop electronics or teeth or anything useful to society – but will ultimately end up simply manufactured into bars, stored by the super-rich in bank vaults
MACKY AND THE MINES
Macky Sall is himself a mining engineer. He was minister of mines when these companies were established in Senegal. One can only imagine he spent many hours dining with these executives who make off with so much of the country's wealth.
Senegalese people should be asking what Sall thinks about the gross inequalities between the incomes of these mining executives and those of the Senegalese majority. They should also be asking whether they in fact supported his campaign, which has allowed him to travel continually around the country over the past two years.
It might also be worth noting that elsewhere in Africa, governments are re-examining their taxation and ownership arrangements with mining companies. Zambia and South Africa are two examples, although Julius Malema was expelled from the ANC after he suggested nationalising the mines. Even the minority government of Australia managed to create a new mining tax.
Unless Macky Sall openly states otherwise, Senegalese people should be aware that he has been cavorting with people who are deeply involved in human rights abuses and ecological destruction of monumental proportions. Moreover, they should be aware than a majority of foreigners brought into the country to work in mining are now done so using temporary work visas that offer no benefits from the state, though workers must pay taxes and are subject to discrimination. Even those who come in with come qualifications make $6.30 less than the average Canadian and face much higher unemployment.
Sall has a daunting task to manage unemployment of massive proportions (reportedly as high as 50 per cent in some demographic sectors) without being able to do anything to alter the underlying economy. The predicament is remarkably similar to Frantz Fanon’s description as far back as 1961:
The national economy of the period of independence is not set on a new footing. It is still concerned with the groundnut harvest, with the cocoa crop and the olive yield. In the same way there is no change in the marketing of basic products, and not a single industry is set up in the country. We go on sending out raw materials; we go on being Europe's small farmers, who specialize in unfinished products.
Sall has not proposed any dramatic changes to this arrangement. So far he has only indicated that he thinks the unemployed youth will serve the cocktails and provide the sight seeing for the mining executives as they come in and out of the country. Currently in bars popular among engineers they are already outnumbered by sex-workers, while the boys are left to rap in the slums.
A glance at the latest video, by Beuz Mc titled “fou rewmi dieum” (where are we going) suggests youth in Y’en’a Marre are much more attuned to the needs of the economy than the soon-to-be president. They show the need for infrastructure and public-sector jobs in waste treatment and sanitation, road construction, electricity that does not put the mining sector above nursing mothers, safe water, cheaper energy and health care and education (literacy rate is 42% - far below the “sub-saharan” rate of 62).
The reality, however, is that none of this can come without curbing the power of a global 1% whose profits come at the expense of our children’s future. On this basis Sall does not show a willingness or ability to take on this task.
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