Senegal opposition wants protest against President

Last Updated: Sunday, January 29, 2012 - 10:17

Dakar: Senegal`s opposition called on the population on Saturday to rise up against President Abdoulaye Wade`s decision to run for a third term, a move that foreshadows more unrest after a night of clashes that saw a policeman stoned to death in the normally peaceful nation on Africa`s west coast.

The streets of the capital were strewn with debris, sign of the riots that spread from a downtown square to the interior of the country late Friday after the country`s constitutional court approved Wade`s candidacy in next month`s election.

The Constitution was changed soon after the 85-year-old Wade took office in 2000 in order to impose a two-term limit. He argues that because the law was not in effect when he was elected, it should not apply to him.

In a statement on Saturday, the M23 coalition representing all the major opposition candidates running in the election said the court had betrayed the people.

"A black page has been written in the history of our country by the decision to validate the candidacy of Abdoulaye Wade," the statement said. "We are inviting the population to organise and mobilise themselves to face Wade. The combat has started."

Opposition candidate Macky Sall, a former prime minister under Wade who is now running to unseat him, said they had given "the order" for people to take to the streets. He denied that future protests could turn violent.

Police spokesman Colonel Alioune Ndiaye said an officer had been killed late Friday during the riots that followed the court`s verdict. A graphic video posted on YouTube shows a body lying on the ground, a cinderblock lying near his head, as a group of young men hurl more rocks.

"I can confirm that one policeman was killed," Ndiaye said. "He was attacked and he was hit in the head by a brick. He was stoned to death," he said.

On Saturday, police detained Alioune Tine, a leading opposition figure who was the organiser of Friday`s protest. The other members of the M23 coalition attempted to visit him at the Criminal Investigations Division — including international pop star Youssou Ndour. The Grammy-award winning singer tussled with police after they barred him from entering by shoving him back.
Fourteen candidates were cleared by the court to run in the February 26 election.

Among those whose applications was not validated is Ndour, who according to the court did not turn in enough valid signatures on his petition. Ndour is appealing the decision, and after the fracas at the police station, he told reporters that the government is afraid of him.

"They are afraid of me because they know that Senegal was asleep, and I woke it up," he said. "Senegal is not a deed for a house belonging to Abdoulaye Wade."

Senegal finds itself at a crossroads before the February 26 election. The dispute over the legality of Wade`s candidacy is compounded by the worsening economic situation, including spiralling prices and grinding unemployment.

Wade has alienated many former allies as well as the population by giving an increasing share of power to his unpopular son. Corruption scandals have erupted at regular intervals, detracting from the government`s achievements which include the building of numerous roads and bridges.

In 2008, an audit of the Ministry of the Family discovered that officials there had billed the government for coffee spoons costing USD 74 a piece. The entire cutlery set cost Senegal nearly USD 30,000.

Bureau Report



First Published: Sunday, January 29, 2012 - 10:17

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