* Police teargas, arrest those protesting against Turkish
* Dakar's property boom is swallowing up coast, squeezing
* President Sall seeking to develop area outside Dakar
* Money laundering may be fuelling property boom
By Alec Saelens
DAKAR, April 20 Protests over the construction
of a new Turkish embassy in the Senegalese capital Dakar have
highlighted anger in the West African nation over a property
boom that is swallowing the coastline and squeezing ordinary
Riot police teargased protesters and arrested 23 people at a
demonstration last week alongside a breeze-block wall
constructed to house the embassy compound on a picturesque
stretch of Dakar's coast, where luxury villas, hotels and
shopping centres have sprung up in recent years.
Built on a peninsula reaching into the Atlantic Ocean, the
city of three million is growing at breakneck speed, fuelled by
migrants from rural Senegal and neighbouring countries. Hemmed
in by water on three sides, Dakar's population is on track to
hit five million by 2025, experts say.
Civil society groups have formed a movement called "No to
the wall" to oppose the embassy's construction amid growing
opposition to the development of coastal areas used by residents
to relax, walk and exercise. They say the embassy's compound
wall blocks access to a long stretch of pristine coastline.
"We call on all Senegalese with patriotic blood in their
veins to say 'no to the wall' because if we let this happen,
people will no longer be able to enjoy the beach," said Djilly
Bagdad of Y'en a Marre, which means 'Fed Up' in French - a group
of rappers who mobilised in 2012 to defend civil rights and help
vote then-President Abdoulaye Wade out of office.
Some rights groups accuse new President Macky Sall's
government - which authorised the embassy's construction on the
protected coastline despite opposition from Dakar's city council
- of riding roughshod over civil liberties by banning and
Between 1994 and 2010, Dakar house prices soared by 256
percent, the Senegalese National Statistics Agency said.
Regarded as a safe haven in turbulent West Africa, Dakar's
property market is a favoured investment for regional elites.
Many apartments stand empty as locals cannot afford to rent
them. The shortage of affordable housing has pushed residents of
the Ouakam neighbourhood near Dakar's international airport to
build illegal dwellings near the runway - prompting clashes with
police sent to stop them.
"Access to property...has become unaffordable for the poor.
All our money goes to rich landlords," said Amina Toure, a
60-year-old woman selling fruit on Dakar's streets.
RENT CONTROL LAW
With more than half of Senegalese living below the poverty
line, Sall's government passed a law in January to impose rent
reductions. These range from 29 percent for payments below 150
000 CFA ($315) a month to 4 percent from those over 500,000 CFA.
"I've been able to save some money," said Mariama Sarr, who
now pays 43,000 CFA a month for the small flat she shares with
her husband and young daughter. "With the saving, I can buy a 25
kilo bag of rice and oil that will last for a few months."
Yet, many wonder if the law will bring only temporary
relief, given the shortage of space in Dakar. A decree setting
prices per square meter for land and property was signed in 2010
by former President Wade but failed to prevent rents soaring.
Opposition legislator Thierno Boccoum said that, with no
mechanism in the law to regulate future rises, there is a risk
rents will climb as soon as new contracts kick in: "This
decision will spur unfortunate tensions between owners and
tenants without decreasing rents or hampering speculation."
The relocation of the airport to a new site 30 km outside
Dakar next year may alleviate land shortages. Sall also hopes a
$21 billion raft of infrastructure developments by 2018 will
encourage more economic activity outside the capital.
"We're launching a new economic hub in Diamniadio, 30 km
from Dakar," he told Reuters in an interview, outlining plans to
build 1,000 km of roads and refurbish a railway to the
Around 80 percent of Senegal's industry is concentrated in
Dakar, according to Djibril Diop, a researcher on urban
development in Senegal at the University of Montreal in Canada.
Mouhamadou Bodj of Forum Civil, the local branch of
Transparency International, said Dakar's property boom was
fuelled by money laundering. Real estate under construction in
Dakar in 2009 was worth 240 billion CFA, but only 10 billion
could be traced to bank loans, he said.
The National Cell for the Treatment of Financial Information
(CENTIF), a state agency, said suspicious money flows accounted
for nearly one-fifth of Senegal's of economic activity between
2004 and 2011.
"The property boom is related to stolen money, corruption
derived from drug trafficking linked with neighbouring
Guinea-Bissau," Bodj said, referring to Senegal's southern
(Additional reporting by Daniel Flynn; Editing by Daniel Flynn
and Rosalind Russell)