Union of African Workers – Senegal
Declaration of the Political Secretariat
The Country Has Been Taken Hostage
Our country is living through dark hours. For two weeks, the threat of lack of fuel (oil, gas, diesel…) has disrupted its distribution, creating a sense of panic. In Dakar, lines of cars have formed at gas stations. Electricity has seen disruptions in supply by Senelec [national electric company of Senegal*]. Some services have slowed; others have come to a halt. Households have problems keeping perishable goods; high school and college students have trouble studying.
Despite all this, the government has stuck to its duplicitous attitude of denial and affirmation. It is a posture of escape dictated by a political and electoral concern: to not lose face and to give the impression of controlling the situation. This is not even counting the contradictions and paradoxes in speeches by ministerial and presidential authorities in the country.
But why does Senelec not provide more electricity?
In its communiqué of excuses to its customers published in the press, Senelec has given two reasons for these untimely power outages:
1. The accidental stoppage, since December 26, 2005, of an electric power station has led to a loss of 50 megawatts (MW) of power;
2. The halt in the deliveries of diesel oil by the oil companies has caused a halt of production in the power stations of 74 MW of power: the oil turbine of Bel Air (30 MW), Aggreko Station (40 MW), Diesel Station of Bel Air (4 MW). All this has caused, according to the communiqué, a loss of power of 124 MW, leading to a production deficit of 80 MW. Here in the main are the reasons stated for the situation experienced by the people, with the cuts in electricity.
But seen up close, one must understand that the essential reason lies in the halt in supply by the oil companies of the products necessary for the turbines to function. This is the reason for 74 MW of the total deficit in production (80 MW); the stoppage of the private power station (GTI) is only responsible for 6 MW of the total deficit.
That clearly means that if it had not been for the halt by SAR [African Refinery Company] in the distribution of the necessary products, Senelec would not have such a deficit leading to such untimely and prolonged blackouts. Such a situation of dependency by Senelec on Sar is both dangerous and impermissible for such a vital sector, which is so strategic for a country’s economy, for the security, health and life of its people.
The whole question is that Sar does not respond to any logic other than that of making the maximum profit, whatever the cost to the economy of Senegal, to the security and health its people. This situation puts SAR in a position in which it holds the whole country hostage. This is scandalous and revolting!
Here is the spectacle afflicting the country under the rule of the multinational corporations.
The looting of Senegal by SAR
Specialized in importing, refining and marketing of oil products, SAR is in the front ranks of the national corporations, with sales between 260 to 274 billion, employing 260 permanent workers. But paradoxically, SAR is only national in name; the majority of its capital (91.4%) is held by foreign multinational corporations: Total [French] (54.6%), Shell [British-Dutch] (25%), Mobil [U.S.] (11.8%). The other 8.6% belongs to the state represented by Petrosen [Senegalese Oil Company]. This has been the reality since 1963; SAR has held the strategic energy products in its hands and is holding Senegal by the throat. The multinational corporations that make it up are systematically looting the Senegalese people and destroying their economic efforts, while repatriating the bulk of their profits derived from this exploitation.
But SAR does not stop here. The agreements with the state of Senegal provide that in case of loss from its commercial operations of importation and refining of oil products and of importation of butane gas, the state of Senegal will pay for those losses. This is on top of the 36 billion that Sar claims from the state and that, according to it, are the cause of these halts in imports and supply of fuel; 17 billion represents so-called commercial losses (4 billion for importation and distribution of butane gas and 13 billion for importation and distribution of other oil products). The other 19 billion are due to the subsidy of butane gas. Thus, not only do the multinational corporations make huge profits from the trade in oil products, but they do not run any risk, because all their losses are borne by the state.
Here is how those who rule us, from L.S. SENGHOR and A. DIOUF to A. WADE, have given foreign corporations one-sided contracts for an appalling exploitation of the national resources.
These regimes and the men who lead them have given these multinational corporations the means for this exploitation, but also the weapons allow them to put pressure on the state and a disgusting blackmail to return their funds, whether justified or not. This is exactly the relation between SAR and the state of Senegal today, to the point of compromising the economy of the country, the security and health of the people.
Such a corporation cannot be in private hands, much less in the hands of foreigners totally indifferent to the fate of the people. Such a corporation dealing with such strategic products as oil and gas must be public property, national patrimony, in the domain of national sovereignty.
And each time the governments kneel down before these multinational corporations and pay on the nail, despite their verbal protests. Thus SAR has just collected 19 billion, while waiting to be paid the rest.
This is the same pressure, the same scandalous blackmail that the international institutions, the IMF and the World Bank, are exerting on the rulers in all spheres. It is the same threats of the World Bank against the state regarding the law on the special tax on refined imported cooking oil. This is a tax created to protect Sonacos [National Trading Company in Oily Products]. It is the same when Senelec succeeded in providing a new power station, with its own means; the World Bank threatened to stop its programs in the country, if the state did not accede to its demand to have the new station managed by a foreign agency. This the state, despite its complaints, has largely accepted.
Senegal is under the iron rule of the multinational corporations and the international institutions which are carrying out an organized, systematic looting, in all spheres, to make profit. From this logic proceeds the politics of privatization of our most profitable corporations: Sonatel [telephone company], Sncs [public transportation], Sonacos, Sde [water company], Sodéfitex [cotton company], etc.
And our rulers accept this and bow their heads, when they do not simply sing the praises of these neo-liberal policies that are impoverishing and killing the popular masses. In exchange for their docility, our rulers receive crumbs from the looting by the corporations and from the state coffers, transferring the money abroad into the banks of the multinational corporations which are charged with protecting them in their turn. This is THE UNSPOKEN CONTRACT BETWEEN THE FOREIGN AND THE NATIONAL LOOTERS. This is how the politics of imperialist domination works.
The RTA-S is launching a stirring appeal to all patriots, to all democrats to take up the campaign of information to make the truth known to the popular masses, to organize, mobilize and fight against these disastrous policies that are full of dangers. The shortages will continue and will provoke outages, the closing of corporations, the layoff of workers, the increase in the cost of living, as long as Senegal remains hostage to the multinational corporations and international institutions. More than ever, we must link the campaign against the government personnel expenses to the campaign against the looting of our country.
Dakar, March 22, 2006 Political Secretariat
* All material in square brackets are translator’s notes.
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