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Viewing cable 10DAKAR127, Ambassador Discusses Corruption with Senegalese President

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
10DAKAR127 2010-02-18 17:05 2010-12-09 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Dakar
DE RUEHDK #0127/01 0491731
O R 181731Z FEB 10
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 DAKAR 000127 


E.O. 12958: DECL: 2020/02/18 
SUBJECT: Ambassador Discusses Corruption with Senegalese President 

REF: 09 DAKAR 1069 

CLASSIFIED BY: Marcia Bernicat, Ambassador, DOS, Exec; REASON: 
1.4(B), (D) 

1. (U) Summary: After nearly two hours of a mostly one-on-one 
discussion that included lighter and more tense exchanges, 
Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade took the suggestion to 
demonstrate tangible steps of fighting corruption. Wade relied on 
his standard defense of the fact there have been no cases of 
corruption brought to trial in recent years. Despite reports from 
the budget inspector's court and the inspector general's office, 
there have been no trials of prominent civilian or political 
figures since Wade's election in 2000. Wade first claimed that: 1) 
his political enemies are using the press to make false 
accusations, 2) it is difficult to prove corruption exists, and 3) 
as President he cannot possibly monitor everything that happens in 
his government. He finally acknowledged that it was statistically 
impossible for his claims that there is no corruption in Senegal to 
be true, and that he needed to address donor concerns regarding 
increased corruption in Senegal. Recalling conversations he had 
last fall with the Secretary and President Obama, the Ambassador 
urged President Wade to help the U.S. continue to help Senegal by 
demonstrating through concrete actions a reduction in corruption 
levels to avoid any governance-related sanctions. End Summary. 

2. (U) Ambassador Bernicat opened the one-on-one conversation with  President Abdoulaye Wade by presenting him with a signed copy of a  photo with Secretary Clinton prior to the signing of the MCC 
Compact Agreement in September 2009 and commending his humanitarian  outreach to Haitian earthquake victims. She further praised Wade's  January 21, 2010 announcement to his Counsel of Ministers of the  importance of fighting corruption and that he was open to the  possibility of giving Senegal's Anti-Corruption Commission greater  autonomy. She explained, however, that there was growing concern  in the United States and among Senegal's other donors and the  international community about the increase in corruption in Senegal  and impunity towards it. His recent response to a letter he  received from the new President of MCC, Daniel W. Yohannes,  dismissing the issue, she added, served to underline those  concerns. 

3. (U) President Wade responded initially by explaining that it is 
difficult to "prove a negative" and that his government does not 
seek out cases, absent specific details. It is most important, he 
argued, for a government to demonstrate its political will to fight 
corruption when it arises, not to go on witch hunts. By way of 
example, he acknowledged the European Union had raised concerns  about the sale of land used to fund the construction of the African  Renaissance Monument, but insisted he has satisfied those concerns.  He continued with a detailed explanation regarding why the convoluted sale of public land at different prices was required. 
The Ambassador countered that the opaque way in which the land was  sold had lent itself to charges of corruption. (FYI. See reftel - 
and note that the EU Resident Representative in Dakar found 
President Wade's explanation unconvincing and remains critical of 
the land deal. End FYI.) 

4.(U) The Ambassador responded to President Wade's request for 
specific cases to pursue by asking about the status of the 
forty-nine cases of alleged money laundering that Senegal's 
Financial Investigative Unit CENTIF has referred to the State 
Prosecutor since 2005, but which have not yet been brought to 
trial. Wade initially responded that the GOS did not want to 
discourage foreign investments by scrutinizing every money 
transfer. Following the Ambassador's brief explanation that cases 
brought to CENTIF were part of a well-regulated international 
system made more robust in the wake of the discovery of the role 
that terrorist financing played in the 9/11 attacks, Wade convoked 
both the head of CENTIF, Ngouda Fall Kane, and the new Justice 
Minister, El Hadj Amadou Sall, to explain the delay. He demurred 
that he could not interfere in another branch of government, but 
the Ambassador parried that it was important, given his commitment 
to end corruption, to follow such cases closely and help break any 
logjams when they occur. As Senegal was the first Francophone 
African member to join Egmont in May 2009, it has a special 
responsibility to lead by example. Sall confirmed that CENTIF 
cases needed to be taken seriously. 

5.(U) Justice Minister Sall, the third person to hold the post in 
the last 4 months, had the advantage of inheriting the delays and 

DAKAR 00000127 002 OF 003 

assured Wade he would investigate the nature of the delays and 
resolve them as soon as possible. He also claimed to be pursuing a 
number of other corruption cases at the moment and would have some arrests to report shortly.

6. (U) Wade relied only briefly on the argument he used with 
President Obama last fall - that his political enemies are inciting 
the press to fabricate stories about corruption, but shifted fairly 
quickly when the Ambassador asserted that the perception of 
widespread corruption has now become a reality that only concrete 
actions can effectively address. Another recurring theme 
throughout the discussion was that, as President, Wade claimed he 
could not possibly know the behavior of every government official. 
The Ambassador contended each time that he needed to create an 
environment in which it is clear corruption will not be tolerated 
and follow through by having those guilty arrested and prosecuted, 
highlighting recent years of U.S. assistance to train law 
enforcement and judicial authorities in combating money laundering, 
corruption, and other transnational crimes. The Ambassador then 
argued that corruption is everywhere in the world and that it is 
statistically impossible for there to be no cases in Senegal. 
Wade, who has an advanced degree in mathematics and statistics, 
chuckled and conceded, agreeing that he needed to demonstrate 
concrete steps to fight corruption. 

7. (U) Finally, citing U.S. legislation which now requires 
Secretary Clinton's certification of each country's budget 
transparency, the Ambassador urged President Wade to adopt the 
Integrated System of Public Financial Management "SIGFIP," a 
computer system whose automation of the budget process will 
significantly enhance Senegal's fiscal reform efforts by making 
public funds fully accountable. Wade assured the Ambassador that 
only he had been successful in reducing the backlog of the final 
budget review process, but the Ambassador noted that the current 
backlog meant Senegal would still not meet the standard of the 
legislation. SIGFIP would be a comprehensive and foolproof way to 
regulate potential corrupt spending within the ministries. 
(Comment: Local World Bank officials have promised to pass summary  information on SIGFIP to Wade. End Comment) 

8. (SBU) Tellingly, President Wade ended the discussion by abruptly 
asking for assurances that the U.S. Government would not deny 
Senegal the MCC Compact at this point, given its focus on improving 
conditions of the country's poorest. Ambassador Bernicat explained 
to him that development assistance was targeted for a country's 
most needy; MCC Compacts were reserved for the developing world's  best performers. She stressed that legislation requires that 
continued declines in measures of good governance, corruption, or 
other indicators would result in Senegal losing its Compact, as 
could other egregious acts that meet with Congressional 
appropriators' disapproval. That would be especially true of 
corruption, she added, reminding him that some Members of Congress  had expressed their concerns at the time the Compact was signed. 

9. (SBU) This meeting closely followed discussions in which the 
European Union Representative, the DCM, and Ambassador made similar  points to President Wade's son, Karim, the Minister for 
International Cooperation, Land Use, Air Transport and 
Infrastructure. The Ambassador also briefed a group of core donors 
(France, Spain, Germany, Holland, Canada, European Union, World 
Bank, and, for the first time in a group setting, China) following 
a series of individual meetings to compare notes (as is customary) 
and report on actions to counter corruption in Senegal. The group 
agreed to continue to place pressure on the Wade administration 
constructively, in part, by drawing on a common set of talking 
points condemning corruption to raise the level of intolerance for 
it in this pre-election season. 

10. (C) Comment: Several actions (reported septel) taken prior to 
or following this discussion suggest to the hopeful that President 
Wade is finally taking steps to curb corruption, but post believes 
he will walk a fine line between taking these steps and continuing 

DAKAR 00000127 003 OF 003 

to allow those used to helping themselves to government funds to do 
so to ensure their loyalties remain intact. The striking 
similarities of the father and son on this issue suggest the two 
continue to underestimate the importance of this issue to the 
donors and, increasingly, to the electorate. It also suggests that 
they continue to work in concert toward preparing the way for a 
presidential dynastic succession rather than, as some speculate, 
that Karim Wade was undermining a father increasingly sidelined by 
his own political missteps of the last few months. President Wade, 
who reportedly is more frequently frail and distracted, was robust 
and in command of the subject matter throughout the nearly two-hour 
discussion. End comment.