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The leader of Senegal’s opposition, Yewwi Askan Wi, asked his fellow citizens to bang pots and pans in the streets to show their displeasure with the regime of President Macky Sall. The result was a lot of banging.
“I’m here to protest for justice,” Ibrahima Soumare told Reuters during a demonstration as he struck two pot lids together. On one lid, he had written, “No to dictatorship.” The other read, “Protesting is a constitutional right.”
Since Sall banned the protests in the French-speaking West African country, as Agence France-Presse reported, police have cracked down on the demonstrators, using tear gas and water cannons on the crowds in Dakar, the capital. Three people were killed in the most recent round of protests.
Tensions in Senegal have been high since last year when the police arrested opposition leader Ousmane Sonko on rape charges that he has denied. But the tipping point, as Voice of America explained, came recently when Sall’s administration disqualified opposition candidates from participating in the July 31 legislative elections. Critics say the moves were in line with corruption charges derailing the prospects of his political rivals in prior elections.
The saddest aspect of the state of affairs is that historically, Senegal has been an island of stability in Africa. The country’s startup scene is growing, for example, wrote Quartz Africa.
That history has made bigger questions about the country’s political future more urgent. Sall faces term limits that would require him to leave office in two years. He has not opted out of changing the law and remaining in power, a stance that many African leaders and others around the world have adopted in recent years. As the Brookings Institute noted, Sall assumed office in 2014 but was technically only supposed to serve one five-year term.
Voters are getting fed up with Sall’s reluctance to leave and the chaos his choices are causing. For example, his political party, Benno Bokk Yaakaar, lost ground in recent municipal elections that were seen as a referendum on Sall’s rule, as the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs wrote.
Sonko, meanwhile, has called for more protests. “Let the whole of Senegal rumble and let Macky Sall understand that the Senegalese people do not agree with his dictatorial designs or his ill-fated plan for a third term,” he told Africanews.
The world will see whether or not Sall hears the banging on the wall.