January 28th, 2012
NewsRescue-As the Senegalese court rules that the incumbent president, President Abdoulaye Wade can contest for a third term in the upcoming presidential elections, violence rages in Senegal.
Protesters set fire to buildings and barricades in the capital Dakar.
A policeman was reported to have been killed during running battles between stone-throwing demonstrators and the security forces.
Mr Wade, 85, appeared on television to call for calm, describing the protests as “displays of petulance”.
The president has already served two terms in office, but the constitution has been amended since he was last elected and he argued that the change did not apply retrospectively.
The court’s statement, issued late on Friday, listed 14 candidates – including Mr Wade – as eligible to stand in the 26 February election.
However the court barred Senegal’s best known music star, Youssou N’Dour, from running saying many of the signatures he had gathered to support his candidacy could not be verified.
The Grammy award-winning musician had announced earlier this month that he would stand.
Democracy has simply failed to work in Africa, a continent with nations created by colonialism that have ethnic and tribal divides- deepened and quickly fueling deadly violence, by the political processes of the western democratic system. A discussion on the failure of democracy in Africa can be read here: Democracy Fails Africa
Youths took to the streets in central Dakar and other towns such as Mbour, Thies and Kaolack. The headquarters of President Wade’s Senegalese Democratic Party was burned down, with other angry protesters gathering around the Constitutional Court itself.
Police opened fire with tear gas to disperse protesters in central Dakar, who hurled rocks at police and set tires on fire. Cars were overturned to make roadblocks.
The opposition says an amendment to the Senegalese constitution sets a limit of two terms for a president. But President Wade, 85, said his first term pre-dated the constitutional amendment.
The court validated 13 other presidential candidates but rejected the candidacy of Senegalese pop star Youssou N’Dour, along with Abdoulahmane Sarr and Keba Keinde. The Senegalese press is reporting Saturday that Wade’s administration will try to invalidate the candidacies of principal opponents Idrissa Seck and Macky Sall.
It is rumored that police have also been ordered to arrest the head of the opposition movement M23. Abdoulahmane Sarr, who at 43 is one of the youngest candidates, submitted his appeal to the court Saturday morning. He said that he remains positive.
“We have done everything we can to offer the opportunity to Senegalese people to vote for a competent, engaged youthful politician who offers solutions that they need. There is no reason that we should be rejected after collecting 12,454 signatures of support,” said Sarr.
Youssou N’Dour also appealed the decision early Saturday and is now waiting to see whether his candidacy can be approved.
Military units currently surround the Constitutional Court and others areas in Dakar.
Dakar resident Emmanuel Camara said the protests will only get worse.
“They should expect it to be worse than the June 23 protest, because starting from tomorrow onwards, our youth – what we call our youth forces – will position themselves here in the street. It’s unacceptable,” said Camara.
As it currently stands, the centrist Wade will face rivals including Socialist Party leader Ousmane Tanor Dieng and three ex-prime ministers – Idrissa Seck, Macky Sall and Moustapha Niasse.
Sarr says, despite the trouble, Senegal is nevertheless a peaceful place.
“It’s a shame about the protests, because we all know that Senegal is a country of peace,” said Sarr. “We would have liked the candidacies to have been set in an atmosphere of peace – and to have had far and transparent elections. We would hope that the elections can go ahead in as much calm as possible. It is a shame that we cannot just go ahead with the process as normally as possible. The young people of Senegal are ready to turn the page and vote for change.”
It remains to be seen if the protests will continue in the days running up to the voting on February 26.