A group of religious leaders in Senegal is urging people not to pay their power bills as residents experience the worst power cuts in decades.  A public demonstration against the government-controlled energy provider is scheduled for Saturday.  

Some imams in Senegal are calling for residents to withhold payment of their energy bills until at least August 17, as the country experiences some of the worst power cuts in decades.

Protests have already been waged this year against the government-controlled energy provider, Senelec.  Earlier this month, 29-year-old Abdoulaye Yinghou was killed during a demonstration in the Bene Barack district on the outskirts of Dakar.  Another public protest is scheduled to be staged on the outskirts of Dakar on Saturday.

As head of the Dakar-based African Assembly for the Defense of Human Rights, RADDHO, Alioune Tine says the issue is one that addresses basic economic, social and cultural rights. Tine says the biggest worry is that basic human necessities, such as food, are being affected, because people cannot properly conserve food when electricity is constantly being cut off for long periods at a time.  In addition, he adds, workers such as tailors cannot work when the power to their machines is cut off.

These compounded factors contribute to one of the most difficult situations the country has faced, Tine said.

Bills are going up, but the electricity is constantly cut, he said.  Tine called this a contradiction and added that the general public malaise will only get worse if the situation continues.

Minister of Energy Samual Sarr has blamed the power outages on contaminated fuel.  He said accidental use of the contaminated fuel had caused damage to engines.  He has also promised a return to normalcy by mid-August.