Asambleas Ciudadanos


the Sahel Saharan Citizens' Assembly



Second traveling caravan toward Senegal

Translations : français . Español . English

A second traveling caravan moved along Senegal’s routes from May 25 to June 4, 2009, visiting Saint-Louis (the capital of Mauritania and Senegal until the time of African independences), Podor, Ouro Sogui and Kanel. Just like during the first caravan organized in Mauritania, the aim consisted of finding as wide a diversity of actors as possible in these four cities. This time the meeting of actors accustomed to acting on Senegal’s reality was emphasized.

Mamadou Niang remembers the way “contact” was made with the local partners during the caravans. He describes the basis of a citizens’ assembly, the stagnation of numerous development policies in Africa and the region, the need to re-think the frameworks of such politics and the search for new forms of governance, and the new responsibility that citizens have when facing these challenges. “Can citizens change the course of things and exert their influence on the State and the institutions?” This question is typically asked as a response, when getting started within this topic and within the assembly’s assumpltions.

“People want to talk and, actually, talk a lot,” exclaims Mamadou. “The witnesses are really diverse. After our visit, we need to make a selection and decantation needs to take place of all the elements that we have gathered. In this sense, we point out that the assembly does not attempt to deal with all the worries expressed individually. The common challenges that will appear among the communities of the region are the priority.” In order for this happen, each caravan will promote the drafting of a summary report (translated into Arabic, particularly) in which the material generated during the meetings will be re-transcribed and synthesized.

One of the proposals that came up more insistently during the second caravan is to go beyond the closed compartments of society and to try and federate the initiatives. “There are many actors favorable to change. Each actor makes a contribution by being in charge of one part of the problems, but this organization mode becomes an obstacle when trying to deal with multi-dimensional challenges across frontiers.” One of the participants stated, quite correctly, during a debate in Kanel that “all organizations taken separately cannot change things.”

An enlightening reflection also shows the imposition of the organizational culture of civil society: "in order to carry out the project of the assembly, people suggest the creation of a structure composed by a president and a secretary. We are against it: the initiative is open and should be organized differently. It can be seen that, even if it only reflects our way of relating with each other within the assembly, we already break away from the usual schemes.”

The demand for a follow-up after the caravan has been quite strong. Due to the lack of private email addresses, the form of contact selected to make sure that the link between some of the human resources of the assembly is not lost will be the phone. The difficulty in facing the high costs of communication in the region remains.

The next promising stage on the Sahel-Saharan assembly’s agenda is the first meeting of the resource people identified during the first two traveling caravans. This meeting will take place in Nouakchott, Mauritania, and will propose a methodological basis whose axis will be inspired on the challenges of the assembly and the drafting of proposals.







Pictures of the first citizens' caravan in Mauritania

Selection of images of the 1st caravan organized towards Aioun in Mauritania in February 2009