Senegal braces for fresh protests as poll nears
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Last Updated: Sunday, February 19, 2012, 00:38
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.


First Published: Sunday, February 19, 2012, 00:38

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