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Senegal arrests 15 before anti-government protest

Last Updated: Sunday, March 20, 2011 - 00:29

Dakar (Senegal): Senegal`s government said
it had foiled an attempted coup just hours before
anti-government protests were set to begin on Saturday by arresting
15 people who had planned attacks across the capital.

Justice Minister Cheikh Tidiane Sy announced on state
television late Friday that the suspects wanted to target
various sites including downtown`s bustling Sandaga Market.
"The state prosecutor decided to nip the coup plot in
the bud by arresting those individuals identified as members
of the plot," he said.

Popular frustration has been mounting in the moderate
West African nation because of daily power cuts and rising
costs. There is also growing discontent over octogenarian
President Abdoulaye Wade`s attempt to run for a third term
next year, as well as the increasing influence of his son,

A sit-in at Dakar`s Place de l`Independance drew
between 1,000 and 2,000 demonstrators on Saturday, primarily
young men.

"We want things to go boom like in those other
countries up there. We want the world to know that things
aren`t working in Senegal. The power cuts are getting worse
and worse. Everything is expensive," said 27-year-old college
student Hilais Gomis.

"We want Wade to know that the people want change and
that we aren`t going to wait indefinitely. We are putting Wade
on notice. If we need to use force, we will," added Abybibou
Kane, 40, a lawyer who came from about 30 miles (50
kilometres) outside Dakar for the sit-in.
Presidential spokesman Serigne Mbacke Ndiaye said that
the protests "are a form of democratic expression."

"They show the vitality of Senegal`s democracy. The
important thing is that they take place in peace and
security," he said.

Though today`s demonstrations did not reach anywhere
near the magnitude of those sweeping North Africa, they could
prove a telling test of support for the country`s fractured
opposition ahead of 2012 presidential elections.

The sit-in ended on schedule at 1 pm, with straggling
demonstrators burning a large photo of Wade and throwing
stones at steadily advancing riot police as they left. There
were no clashes between police and the protesters.

More demonstrations were planned in Dakar throughout
the afternoon, including separate marches by both the leading
opposition coalition and the president`s political party and
an anti-government rally organised by a rapper-led movement
called "We`ve had enough."


First Published: Sunday, March 20, 2011 - 00:29

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