Senegal: Hundreds rally against mismanagement of Covid funds

Hundreds of Senegalese demonstrated in Dakar on Friday to demand legal action after numerous irregularities were found in a report by the Court of Auditors on the management of anti-Covid funds, an AFP journalist noted.

The crowd gathered at the Place de la Nation in Dakar, under the call of a dozen civil society organisations, shouting “To the thieves” and “You will not digest our billions!

A large police force was deployed around the square to supervise the rally, which was authorised by the prefect and supported by the opposition, which has repeatedly denounced the authorities’ “theft” in recent days.

In mid-December, an audit by the Court of Auditors of Senegal on the “Response Fund against the effects of Covid-19” amounting to more than 740 billion CFA francs (more than 1.1 billion euros), financed by donors and the state in 2020 and 2021, pointed to “shortcomings”, “overbilling” or “lack of evidence” of expenditure.

Civil society is demanding the resignation of all those implicated and the reimbursement of the alleged misappropriations.

The government has defended itself by stressing that the reported shortcomings concern less than one percent of the total amount of the fund and has promised to follow the recommendations of the Court of Auditors.

“Let justice be done. I am here to denounce the misappropriation of the funds,” said Alioune Tine, founder of the Afrikajom Center and a civil society figure.

“I am here to denounce impunity and the impartiality of justice. I am outraged to see that our leaders have embezzled our billions while we were between life and death,” said Papis Diatta, a 35-year-old demonstrator.

The slogan “No to the third term” appeared on several placards, because of the doubt that persists on the decision of President Macky Sall, elected in 2012 for seven years and re-elected in 2019 for five years, to run again for president in 2024.

The demonstrators also chanted the name and called for the release of Pape Alé Niang, a journalist detained for more than a month for “disclosing information likely to harm the national defence”, who was released and then returned to detention on 20 December.