Hundreds Protest In Senegal Demanding New Election Date

Civil society groups and political groups march calling on authorities respect the election date, in Dakar, on February 17, 2024. (Photo by John Wessels / AFP)

Several hundred people gathered in Dakar on Saturday, urging the president to pick a date to nominate his successor before his tenure ends on April 2.

President Macky Sall has faced criticism after postponing a vote slated for February 25, resulting in one of West Africa’s greatest political crises.

The Constitutional Council overturned the delay and asked for the vote to take place “as soon as possible” last week.

But Sall appears in no hurry.

He has postponed a decision on the date until after he speaks with political and social players on Monday. He stated Thursday night that he intended to strike a deal by late Tuesday.

That has left the Senegalese people in the dark about when they would be allowed to vote, resulting in a political clamour for the elections to be held soon.

Hundreds turned out on Saturday to protest the F24 opposition group’s request to congregate on a sandy open area in a popular district of the capital.

“We want elections”, protesters chanted, draped in national flags. “Macky Sall dictator.”

“I am demonstrating for one thing: the release of (jailed opposition leader Ousmane) Sonko,” 34-year-old refuse collector Ibrahim Niang told AFP.

In an apparent attempt to appease public sentiment, Sall has stated that he will accept provisional releases, pardons, or an amnesty law for opposition figures such as Sonko and his deputy, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, who is also imprisoned.

According to Sall, who has been in charge since 2012, the election was postponed due to disagreements over the disqualification of potential candidates and concerns about a return to the instability that occurred in 2021 and last year.

The majority of the 20 presidential contenders, as well as a big civil society collective, have expressed their refusal to participate in the talks Sall wishes to hold.

“We oppose all proposals for dialogue and demand that a date be set before April 2,” Boubacar Camara, among the group of 16 candidates, said Friday.

 ‘Attempt at diversion’

If no agreement is reached during the dialogue, Sall stated that the Constitutional Council will decide the next steps.

He emphasized that his mandate would end on April 2nd, as planned.

However, he left open the question of when the vote would take place, later stating that he did not believe it would be possible before April 2.

Sall’s conversation offer was likewise rejected by the Aar Sunu Election (Protect Our Election) coalition of 40 Senegalese civil society groups, which described it as a “attempt at diversion”.

“Our position is (before) April 2, otherwise there will be a crisis,” said Malick Diop, one of the collective’s organisers.

Last weekend, Aar Sunu Election mobilised thousands of people in Dakar.

The opposition has condemned Sall’s last-minute decision to postpone the vote as a “constitutional coup,” claiming that his party dreaded loss at the polls.

The electoral chaos has thrown the typically peaceful West African country into disarray, causing riots that has killed four people.

Written by PH

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