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Hundreds protest against food prices in Senegal
by Diadie Ba

Reuters    Translate This Article
27 April 2008

DAKAR, April 26 (Reuters) - More than 1,000 people, some carrying empty rice sacks, marched through Senegal's capital Dakar on Saturday to protest against rising food prices, the latest such demonstration in impoverished West Africa.

Aid experts say soaring global prices for foodstuffs and fuel threaten to push 100 million people worldwide into hunger, and governments in the poorest countries are scrambling to find ways to mitigate the effects.

Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, whose nation imports more than 80 percent of its rice needs, announced an ambitious plan last week to increase rice production five-fold to 500,000 tonnes in a season.

But many people say the measures are not enough to prevent rice, the daily staple, from becoming a luxury. They accuse Wade of focusing on glamorous infrastructure projects to the detriment of his people's more basic needs.

'President Wade has to stop his prestigious expenses,' shouted Ousmane Ndiaye, a 42-year-old teacher, as other demonstrators chanted behind him.

'The measures announced so far will not get Senegal out of this food crisis,' he said.

Parts of Dakar have been transformed over the past year as four-lane highways and luxury hotels—most of them unfinished—began springing up for the city to host an Islamic summit last month.

But behind the new palm-fringed oceanside highway, residents in its most populous neighbourhoods are struggling to contend with rising prices for basic utilities as well as food.

'Water is expensive, electricity is expensive,' said one female protester, utility bills stuck to her chest.

The security forces monitored the demonstration but kept a low profile, unlike in Cameroon where dozens of people were killed in February during riots fuelled by anger over the cost of living.

(Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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