November 23, 2007 / 5:02 PM / 10 years ago

Senegal delays street traders' eviction after riots

DAKAR (Reuters) - Senegal has postponed until January a controversial decree to evict thousands of street sellers from the centre of the capital Dakar, which sparked the city's worst rioting in years this week.

After meeting with representatives of the street traders' association, Dakar Mayor Pape Diop suspended the measure, announced by President Abdoulaye Wade last week in an effort to reduce lengthy traffic jams choking the coastal capital and hampering business.

"We talked to the mayor and he allowed us to carry our activities till after New Year," said Cheikh Diop, president of the street vendors on Dakar's main Georges Pompidou avenue. "But (the mayor) said we should be careful not to slow down the traffic."

Hundreds of stone-throwing protesters rampaged through the city on Wednesday, blocking main avenues with burning tyres and rubbish as riot police firing teargas fought to disperse them.

The disturbances were fuelled by widespread popular discontent at rising prices and high unemployment, which forces many young men to risk their lives as illegal migrants to Europe.

Security forces are asking vendors not to set up their wooden stalls but sell only goods they can hold in their hands.

"If I had another job, I would not sell shirts and socks in the streets. This is the best I can do in this country. If they create jobs for us, we will stop selling in the streets," said Alioune Ngom, a 22-year-old vendor.

Dakar Governor Amadou Sy announced on Wednesday the creation of four new markets for street traders in a bid to defuse popular anger, but the traders have said these will be too isolated from their customers on the streets.

Reporting by Diadie Ba; Writing by Daniel Flynn

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