Senegal Strike over Safety Belts Suspended
January 4, 2005
Minibus drivers in Senegal have suspended a strike over new rules on safety belts after receiving assurances they will get a meeting with President Abdoulaye Wade.
Traffic resumed slowly on the normally-clogged streets in the main port city of Dakar Tuesday, as many drivers remained unaware their protest action had stopped after just one day.
Union leader Mody Guiro says government negotiators worked late into the night to defuse the situation. He says he is hopeful a meeting scheduled with President Wade on Friday will lead to better working conditions for drivers.
The strike was called Monday as new traffic laws were implemented, calling for heavy fines and even jail time for drivers if their buses aren't equipped with seat belts.
Many of the yellow and blue buses, known locally as "car rapides", don't even have headlights or doors.
Drivers say the government should first work on reducing their long working hours and also stop police from forcing them to pay bribes, before mandating seatbelts. They also say they don't have enough money to put seatbelts in.
One of the angry drivers who took part in the strike was Amadou Niang. He says he finds it absurd the government didn't seem aware of driver demands before going ahead with the new laws.
The government is trying to limit deadly road accidents. A local saying goes "You must fear god, and you must fear the car rapide."
Still, one commuter, Antoine Diouf, was relieved the strike was quickly over. "When they have stopped their strike, we are enjoying. Yesterday, there were many difficulties for people because when you want to go somewhere you have some problem," he said. "So that's why they should definitely find solution and this problem will be behind us. Discussions are necessary in this case."
Many children weren't able to make it to school Monday while workers walked long distances by foot. As in many other African cities, the minibus is often the only way of getting around for those who don't have enough money to own a car or pay for individual taxis.
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