From all indications, a political crisis is brewing in Senegal in the run up to the February 2024 presidential election.
Early this month, 16 persons were reported to have been killed following a riot that broke out after the sentencing of the leading opposition figure, Ousmane Sonko, to two years imprisonment for “corrupting the youth’’.
Sonko was accused of sexually assaulting and threatening a massage therapist at a beauty salon in 2021. She was 20 years of age when she made the accusations, which he denied. He said he went to the salon for a massage for chronic back pain and that the case against him was politically motivated, according to reports.
The owner of the beauty salon, Ndeye Khady Ndiaye, was also sentenced to two years in prison by the judge for the same offence of “corrupting youth”.
The sentencing was seen by his supporters, largely made up of the youth, as a ploy to prevent him from contesting in the election against the incumbent, President Macky Sall.
In the last few months, there has been a debate in the country on the legality of President Sall vying for a third term in office. Sall was first elected in 2012 for a seven-year term, but in 2016 the country’s constitution was amended to provide for a five-year term with another provision which limits the president to a maximum of two terms.
He was re-elected in 2019 under the new provision.
Many Senegalese believe that Macky Sall has already served his two terms, even though the constitution was revised in 2016, so they don’t want him to run for a third term.
The president, however, believes he has the right to stand as a candidate in the next presidential election scheduled for 2024. According to him, the constitutional council “considered that my first mandate was intangible and beyond the reach of the reform”.
Similarly, key figures of his government and party have been making statements indicating that he would contest in the next election.
“The president’s first term is from 2019 to 2024,” said Ismaïla Madior Fall, justice minister, recently during a public debate.
Another leading figure of the ruling party, Pape Mahawa Diouf, was also quoted as saying that it was necessary for Sall to contest to maintain stability and keep the pace of development that started since 2012.
The opinion of the constitutional council is not authoritative and has not convinced the Senegalese people.
It is unfortunate that African leaders have refused to learn from past mistakes or the mistakes of their peers. In the last three years, the West African sub-region has seen the return of the military largely triggered by the refusal of the politicians to play according to the rule. In Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso, the military took over the government following disputed elections. Sadly, all of them were linked to the insistence of the incumbent to hold onto power.
Daily Trust feels it would be a double jeopardy if Senegal joins the league. First, because leaders of the West African regional group ECOWAS are yet to find solution to the problems of the three countries in the region that are now under military rule. Second, President Sall is being seen as a leading figure in Africa’s quest to establish democracy on the continent.
will be sad if President Sall, who not long ago chaired the African Union, will be lured into perpetuating himself against the wish of the majority of the Senegalese people. Certainly, Africa does not need another example of torpedoing democracy.
Daily Trust, therefore, urges Macky Sall to deeply reflect on the likely consequences his quest for a third term will do to the continent, especially the ECOWAS sub-region. He must come to terms with the fact that he has a big role to play in ensuring the sustenance of democracy not only in Senegal but on the continent.
Let us remind him that he came to power through a democratic process, which has been in practice in his country since after President Leopold Senghor’s long-term rule. Senegal was one of the few countries on the continent where an opposition leader, Abdullah Wade, won against an incumbent president.
We call on him to take a cue from former Presidents Uhuru Kenyetta of Kenya and Nigeria’s Muhammadu Buhari, who kept their promises of ensuring a peaceful transition at the end of their terms.