In Senegal, anger over President Abdoulaye Wade’s intention to stay in power is shaking the west African country’s social foundations. He is now in position to run for a third term, after a favourable ruling by Senegal’s constitutional court just days ago. It accepted that the constitution’s two-term limit does not apply to him because it became law during his second term.
Senegal has a population of more than 12 million. Some four out of ten of these people live outside urban communities. It is the only country in the region to have got along without a military coup since the former French colonial territory became independent in 1960.
Its successful post-colonial democratic transition continued in 2000 as 40 years of socialist government gave way to liberal rule, under Wade. But in more recent years, increasing centralisation of power in the executive saw Senegal’s democratic credentials erode.
In 2009, Wade brought his son Karim into his government – after the younger man had been defeated in municipal elections. When five ministry portfolios were given to Karim, it began to many to look like blatant nepotism. Moves to create a vice-president post were dropped in the face of alarmed objection.
Criticism grew that the president had grown power-drunk with his multi-million-euro project to celebrate 50 years of independence: a bronze statue to glorify African rebirth.
While increasingly greater numbers of people are going hungry and having trouble finding work, the opposition complains, what some call a monumental blunder has been raised over the capital, Dakar.
Opposition MP Ndèye Fatou Touré, in the Tekki Movement, said: “It is an economic monstrosity in the current context of financial crisis, which threatens us with a food crisis and an energy crisis. This also is a financial scandal!”
The opposition parties in Senegal are also condemning the actions of the Constitutional Council, which validated Wade to run again for the presidency and rejected popular musician Youssou Ndour’s bid, on grounds his application lacked the necessary number of signatures.
Ndour said: “History is being written in Senegal today, and we will accept only what is in our constitution, which very clearly says he does not have the right to run again. That’s my final word. It’s clear. We are ready.”
The opposition has vowed to make the country ungovernable, to force Wade to withdraw before the polls on 26 February.