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Senegal Temporarily Lifts Street-Selling Ban


Senegalese street vendors can once again sell their wares on sidewalks after two days of riots in the capital, Dakar. The rioting vendors were protesting a government ban on their business. For VOA, Naomi Schwarz has more from Dakar.

The Senegalese government has agreed to temporarily lift its ban on street vendors, at least until the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha in late December, known locally as Tabaski.

Selling breakfast sandwiches and coffee at a makeshift stand of tables and benches on the side of a main road, Harouna Ba says this is not good enough.

He says Tabaski is not even two months away, and he does not have enough time to find another way to earn a living.

Ba has been selling breakfast as well and fruits and vegetables in this spot for years. He built a small shed and broad tables for his product and his customers.

But Ba says when he came to work early one morning last week, everything had been destroyed.

Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade had ordered police to evict street-sellers across the city, saying they were disrupting traffic and costing Dakar international business and millions of dollars. Police enforcing the ban chased vendors off the streets and tore down roadside stands.

On Wednesday and Thursday, thousands of street sellers angry over the ban, protested. They burned tires and ransacked government buildings. Wednesday also saw separate protests from hundreds of labor union members frustrated over rising food prices.

Thousands of Senegalese make their living as street sellers. Some. like Ba, have small kiosks. Others carry their wares in backpacks and on their heads, selling to people walking by or in cars caught in traffic jams.

Ba says he was not warned about the street selling ban and was not reimbursed for his destroyed stand. He says he had no choice but to start over.

He says, as well, that he had extended credit to many of his regular clients, and he needs to keep working at this spot so they will know where to come and repay him.

The government is in discussions with a delegation of street vendors to find a long-term solution.

More than 40 percent of Senegalese are estimated to be unemployed. Nearly all the jobs that do exist are informal. The lack of employment has led tens of thousands of young Senegalese to try and emigrate illegally to Europe on flimsy boats that often capsize.

Momadou Korka Diallo, who sells phone cards at a busy intersection near a gas station, says President Wade is right to try to keep streets orderly.

He says it is not good if vendors block traffic downtown and also leave the streets dirty.

But he says if they are acting responsibly they should be allowed to keep working.

Senegal is one of West Africa's most stable democracies and protests and street violence are rare.

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