Senegal: opposition pledges to make country “ungovernable”

Riot police cordoned off streets in Dakar on Jan. 28 after a night of violent protests that erupted after the Constitutional Council cleared octogenarian President Abdoulaye Wade to seek a third term and opposition leaders vowed to force him from power. As the decision was announced, youths set fire to tires and threw stones at riot police, who responded with tear gas. At least one police officer was reported killed. Reports from the central town of Kaolack said the local headquarters of Wade’s Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS) was burned down. Riots were also reported in Thies and Mbour, outside Dakar. “Abdoulaye Wade has declared war on the people,” said Amath Dansakho, leader of the leftist Party of Independence and Labor (PIT) and a member of the M23 opposition coalition. “The decision that we have just made will prove to Wade that this is a country of free people. We will render the country ungovernable.” Wade responded by telling his opponents to stop their “displays of petulance” and “temper tantrums.”

The opposition says an amendment to the Senegalese constitution sets a limit of two terms for a president. But President Wade said his first term pre-dated the amendment. Besides President Wade, 13 other candidates were cleared while three—including celebrated musician Youssou N’Dour—were disqualified. N’Dour said he will petition the council’s decision.

Senegal’s influential Mouride Sufi brotherhood urged calm. “The marabout calls on everyone to do what us needed to preserve peace in the country,” spokesman Serigne Bass Abdou Khadre Mbacke said, refering to Mouride leader Serigne Cheikh Sidy Moctar Mbacke (grandson of the order’s founder Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba). “He asks leaders and the opposition to open talks aimed at ensuring we move forward to transparent elections.”

A coveted prize for presidential hopeful is a ndiguel from the Mouride caliph—an order issued for followers to vote for the chosen candidate. The last such order was given in 1988 to incumbent socialist president Abdou Diouf—actually, a member of the Tidiane brotherhood—which helped him fend off a challenge from then-opposition challenger Wade. (Daily Nation, Kenya, via AllAfrica, BBC News, Reuters, Jan. 28)

See our last posts on Senegal and the struggle in West Africa.

  1. Senegal back from the brink
    Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade conceded defeat after the March 25 presidential run-off. He will be succeeded by his former protege turned rival, Macky Sall, 50. Wade’s bid to remain in power sparked massive street protests in which seven were killed. The protests were joined by Senegal’s most famous musician, Youssou N’Dour, and Senegalese rappers who dubbed the movement Y’en ai Marre, or “I’m fed up.” Sall has promised to bring down the price of basic foods, cut presidential terms to five years from the current seven, and to enforce the two-term limit. Sall served as Wade’s prime minister from 2004 to 2007, but fell out with the president when he summoned his son, Karim Wade, to parliament, to account for the massive holes in the budget for infrastructure that he had managed. (Capital News, March 27; LAT, March 26)