Senegal’s disabled ex-troops demonstrate

DAKAR — About 200 disabled Senegalese former soldiers held a two-hour demonstration Friday on a busy Dakar street to call for better pay and health coverage, an AFP correspondent saw.

The soldiers had collected their medication from a military hospital in the Ouakam district and decided afterwards to hold a protest rally, burning a tyre and blocking traffic.

Several dozen paramilitary gendarmes in full riot gear and equipped with tear gas were on the scene, but they did not intervene after the prefect of Dakar, Ibrahima Sakho, brought about an end to the protest.

“I owed it to myself to talk to them to have them clear the public highway,” the city official told journalists, adding that “the administration can’t accept this situation.”

“It was a spontaneous demonstration by handicapped soldiers, who want a reevaluation of their allowance, better social coverage and professional reintegration” into society, the chairman of the National Association of Disabled Former Soldiers, Issa Gueye, told AFP.

“The state has committed itself to settling the problems, but there are delays,” he added.

One of the former soldiers present at the demonstration, Libasse Sane, told AFP that his monthly pension was 58,000 CFA francs (88 euros / 125 dollars), which he said was not enough to live decently.

One handicapped former soldier, Bocar Bocoum, burned himself to death in front of the presidential palace on February 20 to demand a reevaluation of army pensions.

Spontaneous demonstrations by unemployed youths, fishermen and other professional groups are frequent in the west African country, where people object to a low standard of living and also protest against frequent and long power cuts that hit economic activity hard.

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