Protest reprieve for regime

April 21, 2000

A 100-day suspension of demonstrations by students at Senegal's Cheik Anta Diop University has removed the risk of embarrassing the new regime of president Abdoulaye Wade as delegates converge on Dakar for the World Education Forum this month.

Students have given the regime 100 days to implement the terms of a pre-election reform package promised by ousted president Abdou Diouf.

The former president tried to secure student support in last month's presidential elections by telling his education minister, Andre Sonko, to reach a rapid agreement with the students over some of their demands.

Promises included the construction of two new lecture theatres, the payment of most of the student bursary arrears, recruitment of more than 3,000 part-time lecturers and a cut in bus fares and meal prices at campuses in Dakar and Saint Louis.

But despite publication of the plan 24 hours before the second round of the presidential elections, students still voted against Diouf. As a sign of respect for the new president, the students' union decided to suspend a three-month lecture boycott.

Pemba Ndiaye, a member of the students' union, said: "We campaigned and eventually voted for Wade because he came and talked to us and assured us that as a former professor of law in this university he understands the problems we face.

"Until the eve of the election the administration of the former president sent troops and police to quell our protests instead of discussing issues confronting us as students and youth."

Confrontations in the Casamance region between government troops and separatist rebels are also a source of concern for students, who say the fighting is consuming resources needed for other sectors of society.

Ismaila Ndiaye, a member of the students' union executive, said the students hope for a solution "so that part of the human and material resources allocated to the war can be diverted into the higher education sector".

About 900 participants including heads of state are expected in Dakar for the forum, which will review progress made towards implementation of the commitments made at the first forum in Jomtien, Thailand, in 1990.

Opinion, page14

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