The World Today for March 21, 2024


Listen to the Children


A primary school in Dakar, the capital of Senegal, recently held elections for their student body president. A BBC video crew asked the student candidates what they would do if they were elected president of their West African country.

“My advice to the future president is to reduce the food prices and to have solutions to the problems of all Senegalese people,” said a student.

Politicians in Senegal might consider heeding that advice when they compete to win the country’s top job on March 24, in an election that wasn’t to take place at all.

Last month, President Macky Sall triggered a political crisis when he announced that he would postpone the election originally scheduled for Feb. 25 for 10 months, citing controversies over disqualified candidates and electoral technicalities that his administration had brought on.

“I don’t want to leave behind a country that will immediately plunge into major difficulties,” he told the Associated Press. “I am saying now that I am going to work for appeasement, for conditions that will allow the country to be peaceful … let’s all hold inclusive discussions before we go to elections.”

Senegalese law forbids Sall from running for a third term, explained the New York Times. Many observers feared he would follow the example of other African leaders and stay in office indefinitely. In recent years he has been assuming more power, jailing protesters and dissidents, forbidding demonstrations, shutting off the Internet, and trampling on other rights.

At least 23 people died in protests that erupted last year, for example, when opposition leader Ousmane Sonko was convicted of “corrupting youth” and sentenced to two years in prison, a decision that would have prevented him from running for president this year. Sonko denied any wrongdoing.

Recently, despite Sall’s machinations, Senegal’s top court ruled that Sall had to hold a vote before his term ended on April 2, wrote World Politics Review. The president then called for an election on March 24 and granted Sonko political amnesty, allowing him to run in the election, added News24.

Supporters of Bassirou Diomaye Faye, another opposition leader, also took to the streets to call for his release from prison so he could run for president. Faye faces charges of defamation and contempt of court, Reuters wrote.

A handful of other candidates for the presidency are now on the ballot. Whoever succeeds Sall faces steep challenges. Thirty percent of Senegalese citizens between the ages of 18 and 35 are unemployed, Al Jazeera noted. Around 70 percent of Senegalese citizens work in the precarious agricultural and livestock industries. According to the International Monetary Fund, the country’s emerging oil and gas industry offers the possibility of more growth.

Now, as the election draws near, there is “an element of unpredictability,” wrote Amy Niang of the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa, in the Conversation, especially “Sall’s commitment to fulfill his obligations and facilitate an orderly handover.”

Maybe he will listen to the children: “My advice,” said one young primary student on the BBC program, “is that the president must keep all his promises to the nation.”

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