The World Today for February 19, 2024


Failing Grade


Senegal is traditionally a “haven of stability and democracy” in West Africa, Agence France-Presse recently wrote. But President Macky Sall’s decision to postpone the West African country’s presidential election that had been slated for Feb. 25 changed all that.

Demonstrations, often violent, have become common. Protesting youths, meanwhile, have been a mainstay of the demonstrations. Many have high standards for their country. Police recently shot and killed 16-year-old Landing Camara, also called Diedhiou – the same name as a famous Senegalese professional soccer player – in clashes in the town of Ziguinchor in the Casamance region, a stronghold of jailed opposition leader Ousmane Sonko.

“There were several seriously wounded people during the protests and one died,” Abdou Sane, leader of Sonko’s African Patriots of Senegal for Work, Ethics and Fraternity political party in Ziguinchor. “He was hit in the head by a bullet.”

The postponement was necessary, Sall claimed, because lawmakers and judges on the country’s Constitutional Council, which adjudicates constitutional questions and oversees elections separately from the Senegalese Supreme Court, could not agree on barring some candidates who might foment unrest – like the violence that occurred in Senegal in 2021 and 2023. As Al Jazeera explained, those riots erupted when Sonko was found guilty and jailed for two years on charges of corrupting the country’s youth, charges that his supporters maintain are trumped up to keep him out of the race.

Sall ended the dispute when he deployed troops to the National Assembly building and detained opposition legislators who opposed the postponement, while the legislature approved a measure to schedule a new election for December. Sall will now likely remain in office after his term ends in April through the rest of the year. Meanwhile, the opposition called the move an “institutional coup.”

Still, what comes next is a big question after the Constitutional Council late last week ruled the National Assembly and Sall’s move to postpone the election unconstitutional, France 24 wrote.

The Constitutional Council, meanwhile, banned Sonko from running for president due to his legal record, reported Reuters. The leader of the opposition Senegalese Democratic Party, Abdoulaye Wade, who is also the son of Sall’s successor in the presidency, was also disqualified because he held a French passport – even though he has since renounced his French nationality.

Some say Sall is meddling because he’s afraid, wrote Foreign Policy magazine. His handpicked replacement, Prime Minister Amadou Ba, was faring poorly in the polls and lacked support in his ruling coalition. Sall couldn’t allow his enemies to defeat Ba and assume the reins of power.

Pundits wondered if Sall might seek to grant Sonko a pardon in exchange for the latter politician’s call for calm, bringing an end to the riots and violence, noted the Journal of Africa.

He needs to do something, contended the Africa Center for Strategic Studies. The president’s moves have sparked a constitutional crisis that is putting Senegal’s democracy to the test.

The irony, say analysts is that Sall himself came to power when his mentor attempted to seek a third – and illegal – term in office, World Politics Review wrote. Now, it’s looking as if he is also trying to do the same vicariously.

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