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Senegalese Opposition Leaders Detained As Police Break Up Protest

Just one month before Senegal's presidential election, a banned march against President Abdoulaye Wade was quickly and violently dispersed. Security forces used tear gas and clubs against the demonstrators, and detained opposition party leaders. Naomi Schwarz was there, and has this VOA report.

Security forces scuffled with protesters, beating them back with batons and rifle butts. Police shot tear gas into the streets, while some protesters threw rocks.

A police van held more than a dozen detained opposition leaders, including former Prime Minister Moustapha Niass, Socialist party leader Ousmane Tanor Dieng, and Abdoulaye Bathily of the Democratic League/Worker's Movement. All three are candidates in the presidential election, scheduled for February 25.

Thierno Diop, a leader of the Alliance of Forces for Progress, Moustapha Niass's party, says the government's response to the protest was unacceptable. Diop says, in a democratic country, a peaceful demonstration should not be met with repression.

Twenty opposition parties and civil society organizations organized the march, About 200 people attended the protest, despite a government ban.

Alassane Ba, a young protester, said "Even though they forbade the march, I came to show that things are truly not going well."

Some protesters said Mr. Wade, who is seeking re-election, has not delivered on the promises he made in his campaign in 2000. Others said they were protesting the postponement of legislative elections, which have been pushed back from February to June. They had already been postponed from last year.

Abdou Ndiaye, a Wade supporter on the scene, criticized the protesters. Ndiaye saud that having all these policemen and civilians in the streets can bring problems in the country, and, he says, the country needs peace.