Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Corruption: Senegal President - gift to IMF representative was not a bribe

President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal has admitted that his top aide gave an International Monetary Fund (IMF) representative to Senegal $200,000 in cash as a goodbye gift.

But in a statement released Tuesday, Wade said the gift to IMF country representative Alex Segura in September was not a bribe.

Political analyst Abdou Lo said even though Senegalese are used to bigger presidential scandals, many were shocked by the amount of money given to an IMF representative.

"Actually, here in Senegal some people call it corruption…what some Senegalese are saying is Mr. Segura works for an international institution, the IMF, and they say do you need to give him that money while your own people are suffering. They don't have enough money to feed themselves, to go to school etcetera," he said.

President Wade's admission has prompted one opposition member of the national legislature, Imam Mbaye Niang to threaten a lawsuit against the president for "illegally spending the people's money".

But Lo said the opposition has no chance of winning any challenge to President Wade's rule.

"The opposition of course is making a small noise. It's not like countries where if you do such thing people will go and demonstrate. His opposition is calling itself a Republican opposition, meaning we're not gonna to fight them. We have to fight them in the Republican way," he said.

Lo also said President Wade's ruling party controls both houses of the parliament.

"You have the upper chamber which is the senate, which is composed of 100 people. And out of 100 people, 65 of them were nominated, not elected, by President Wade himself. So take it from the upper or lower chamber, Mr. Mbaye Niang can try whatever he wants it will go nowhere," Lo said.

The IMF reportedly said in a statement that Segura was given the money after a September 25 dinner with President Wade, but did not realize it was money until he was about to leave Senegal for Barcelona, Spain.

But Lo said Mr. Segura deserves some blame in the scandal.

"He knows what the rules are with his institution. The best he could do was to leave the money there, even if it costs him to miss his plane, he can go back to the state house and say I can't accept this. So the fact that he accepted to carry the money may be a sort of acceptance," he said.

Lo said Segura only accepted to return the money after it was detected by x-ray machines at Dakar Airport.

He said the scandal is unlikely to lend President Wade in any political trouble.

"There will be no consequences because this is not biggest scandal. His son is alleged for embezzling such a huge amount of money here, we're talking about billions and billions," he said.

Lo said no one can touch the president's son because he holds one of the most powerful positions in the Senegalese cabinet.

Published with the permission of Voice of America

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