Of Appeasement and Postponement

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Senegal’s government adopted an amnesty bill this week, a move aimed at resolving the country’s biggest political crisis in decades – sparked after President Macky Sall postponed elections that had been due to take place last Sunday, Agence France-Presse reported.

The bill would see the release of hundreds of people arrested during the anti-government protests that first erupted in 2021.

The draft law must first pass through the country’s parliament, but if approved, it could see the release of popular opposition leader Ousmane Sonko.

Sonko has been imprisoned since last year following a series of legal cases against him, including “corrupting youth” and “disturbing public order.”

Government officials explained the draft law is aimed at bringing “appeasement in the political space, reconciliation and moving on.”

The proposal comes after Sall postponed the presidential election scheduled for Feb. 25, sparking widespread unrest.

The president, whose term in office ends this year, said he called off the vote because of disputes over the disqualification of potential candidates and concerns over potentially deadly unrest in the West African country.

The original list of 19 candidates lacked a few prominent figures – including Sonko – who had been barred from standing.

But the political crisis became further complicated when the Constitutional Council vetoed the postponement, prompting Sall to call for a “national dialogue” to resolve the matter.

Earlier this week, hundreds of civil society members, political leaders and religious figures attended the two-day meeting, where they reached a “broad consensus” on various points.

Among the discussed points were proposals for elections to be held either in June or July, Sall staying in office his term until a new president is sworn in and reviewing the list of candidates.

But following the meeting, Sall opted to seek input from the Constitutional Council regarding the proposals, instead of announcing a new election date.

Opposition candidate Thierno Alassane Sall criticized the dialogue process, alleging that it merely served Sall’s agenda without addressing the fundamental concerns of the opposition and civil society.

Senegal is known as a beacon of stability in West Africa, a region that has been plagued by military coups.

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