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Islamic Summit Puts Spotlight on Senegal President's Son


The West African nation of Senegal is in the international spotlight this week, as it hosts more than 30 heads of state for the summit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Nancy Palus reports for VOA from the capital, Dakar, also in the spotlight is Karim Wade, the son of Senegal's president and organizer of the summit.

For many Senegalese, the success of the international meeting will be a measure of Karim Wade.

Some people have already made up their minds.

Khady Babou, a resident of Dakar's HLM Gueule Tapee neighborhood, says Senegal is like Europe now and it is thanks to Karim Wade. She says, we are all happy with Karim Wade and everyone has seen all the great work he has done.

Babou came out to cheer Wade at the recent opening of a highway tunnel on a road along Dakar's coastline. Wade is managing a number of development projects, with new roads and bridges going up all over Dakar before the summit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

Hundreds of people gathered for the opening and men, women and children rushed to get near Wade as he walked through the crowd and watched the first cars pass through the tunnel.

One young boy exclaimed in the Senegalese Wolof language, Wade is my friend; he is good.

The scene resembled a political campaign stop. Indeed, the speculation in Senegal is that the major development projects are a stepping stone to political power.

Karim Wade says he is not thinking of political ambitions right now.

He says his top concern right now is for the summit to be a success. For the moment, he says, that is all I have on my mind. He says perhaps after the summit would be the time to revisit the question.

Some opposition leaders have charged that the president is preparing his son as his successor. President Abdoulaye Wade has denied such charges.

Many Senegalese say while Karim Wade should not be favored because of his family ties, nor should he be penalized.

Idriss N'diaye, a construction worker in Dakar, says the political scene is open to everyone. He says people should not judge Karim Wade harshly or rule him out of politics just because he is the president's son.

Critics of the summit preparation say besides the new roads, Karim Wade has not completed new hotels that were supposed to be built in time. Instead, many delegates are staying in private villas or on a cruise ship that sailed into Dakar's port before the start of the summit.

Opposition leaders have expressed concern at the creation of a new group called the Generation of Concrete Change. The younger Wade is its president.

A close aide to President Abdoulaye Wade has said the new group is a very strong movement close to the presidency, and that it has thousands of associate groups linked to it, even in the most remote villages of Senegal.

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