New date for Senegal polls, but old tensions persist


Senegalese president Macky Sall

from AMADOU NDIAYE in Dakar, Senegal
Senegal Bureau
DAKAR, (CAJ News) –  SENEGAL, long admired as a model of democracy in the volatile West African regional bloc, is in a rest against time to hold credible elections on March 24.

The doomed elections saga took a new twist on Monday when President Macky Sall announced the dissolution of the government.

“Senegal is in crisis,” said analyst Patrick Kwabena Stephenson.

“Didn’t think we’d get to a dissolution of government but we are there.”

Sall has subsequently appointed former Minister of Interior Sidiki Kaba as prime minister.

The dissolution of the government appointment of Kaba ends weeks of uncertainty, but apparently does not end protests, with Sall due to step down on April 2.

Polls were initially scheduled for February 25 to choose a successor to Sall, the 62-year-old who has been in power since 2012. Sall’s government had intended to delay the poll to December but the Constitutional Court ruled this was illegal.

Protests have rocked the country of 18 million people amid hints Sall would stand for an unconstitutional third term. The arrest of the frontrunners for the post, as well as the barring of others, has sparked unrest.

A security expert forecast protests and episodes of unrest to remain possible across Senegal at least through the March 24 presidential election after March 6.

“Large-scale rallies and other gatherings are likely as political campaigning and the organization of the election begins,” it stated.

“Various activist organizations will almost certainly exert whatever pressure they can through the election cycle.”

The Aar Sunu Election (Let’s Protect Our Election) platform – an umbrella group encompassing several political parties, religious organizations, and trade unions – is projected to organise protests and other actions such as labour strikes in the coming days.

CAJ News Africa gathered authorities are preparing to deploy exceptionally high numbers of security forces near potential protest venues.

These include polling stations, government facilities and transport hubs, including the main Blaise Diagne International Airport, 43 kilometres outside the capital Dakar.

“Police could be quick to use force to disperse any protests that materialize, and clashes remain possible,” the security expert said.

Acts of looting, arson, and general vandalism have not been ruled out during demonstrations.

Sall’s government has come under fire for a heavy-handed response to protests and stifling the internet.

– CAJ News

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