Senegal braces for fresh protests as poll nears
Dakar: Senegal braced on Saturday for more
protests just days before presidential polls in which
Abdoulaye Wade is seeking a highly disputed third term,
raising tensions in one of Africa`s most stable nations.
Some 23,000 soldiers and paramilitary police began voting
today after days of opposition protests against the
85-year-old Wade that have been stamped out by police in the
western African nation.
The opposition June 23 Movement (M23) readied to again
defy a protest ban today, while local and international rights
bodies urged Senegal to stop clamping down on rallies and free
those arrested in the past week.
Tomaso Caprioglio, deputy chief of the European Union
observer mission, kept watch as troops voted, saying the EU
mission "deplored all violent acts and hopes the situation
will normalise in the coming days to allow for a calm and
peaceful election" on Sunday, February 26.
For three days protesters have attempted to rally in
Dakar and police have dispersed them, using teargas, rubber
bullets and water cannon.
International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) president
Souhay Belhassen said in a joint statement with local rights
bodies: "The authorities must come to their senses and allow
political and public expression of opponents and citizens or
be seen as an authoritarian regime muzzling democracy."
Scores of riot police manned positions in Dakar`s
downtown Plateau district, scene of running battles between
security forces and protesters on yesterday afternoon, while
shopowners barricaded their store-fronts.
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