June 28, 2011 / 10:55 AM / 8 years ago

Senegal deploys extra troops as power cuts enrage

The controversial $28-million African Renaissance statue looms in the background as people pass the ransacked office of the state electrical company Senelec in Senegal's capital Dakar, June 28, 2011. Protests erupted across Senegal's capital late on Monday over lengthy power cuts, with demonstrators burning tires and ransacking the offices of the state electricity company Senelec, witnesses said. The protests followed a riot last week over an attempt by President Abdoulaye Wade to alter the constitution in a way his rivals said would make it easier for him to get reelected in February polls and eventually hand power to his son. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly

DAKAR (Reuters) - Senegal deployed extra troops at ministry buildings, armored personnel carriers near the presidential palace and at least one helicopter gunship in the capital Dakar on Wednesday after riots over lengthy power cuts.

Many Dakar homes and businesses have been without electricity for more than 30 hours, catalyzing anti-government sentiment. Overnight, demonstrators burned tires and ransacked the offices of state electricity company Senelec and ministers’ homes.

Riots erupted last week after President Abdoulaye Wade’s tried to alter the constitution in a way his rivals said would make it easier for him to get re-elected in February.

Senegal has earned a reputation as West Africa’s most stable and democratic country but is seeing rising public frustration over backsliding public services, particularly in power generation, since Wade took power in 2000.

Senelec director Seydina Kane, flanked by two ministers, said national television on Tuesday that the problems had been caused by fuel shortages and the company was working to get the situation back to normal by the end of the year.

“It is a difficult situation, Senelec would like to present its apologies to the entire population,” Kane said.

Senelec has been unable to keep up with electricity demand for years and a source at the company said it was currently facing a “huge shortage of fuel.”

Reporting by Diadie Ba; Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Louise Ireland

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