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Senegalese Authorities Disperse Protest After Riots in Capital

  • Nico Colombant

Senegalese security forces broke up a union march after groups of young men rioted in several parts of the capital Dakar, erecting burning barricades, destroying market areas and attacking government offices. Protesters are complaining President Abdoulaye Wade is not doing enough to help workers and the poor, while trying to embellish the city for an upcoming summit of Islamic nations. VOA's Nico Colombant has more from Dakar.

Hundreds of union members marched in central Dakar Wednesday despite a ban on their protest announced just as they were about to begin.

The unions called on police to join them on their side. Instead security forces fired tear gas.

A security official explained he was hoping to make the march secure, but was now under orders to stop it.

March organizer Cheikh Diop said this is not normal, and that he will plan a new protest when the city is calmer.

He says the protest is against higher prices, low salaries, and inadequate employment policies, among other problems.

Another marcher and union leader, Fatou Samba, says Senegalese now only eat once or twice a day. She says many families are abandoning their children, while young men try to flee to Europe, and young women are turning to prostitution.

An official at ruling party offices in the Medina neighborhood of Dakar shows how angry youths ransacked the place earlier in the day as he tried to pick up official documents which have scattered outside in the street.

He says this is not protesting, but unnecessary anarchy.

Nearby, a young street hawker says President Wade does not understand the plight of the poor. He says they have to work by any possible means to survive.

The protests follow a decision by authorities to ban street vending and clear out informal market stalls along main arteries, which are being renovated ahead of a scheduled March summit of Islamic countries.

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