President Sall's refusal to discuss new mandate source of tension - opposition

By Melissa Chemam with RFI
Senegal  RFI/Guillaume Thibault
© RFI/Guillaume Thibault

Senegal's President Macky Sall has not yet clarified whether he will run for a third mandate in the next presidential elections or not. Opposition presidential candidate Idrissa Seck blames the recent violence on Sall's failure to make his intentions clear.

On Monday morning, Dakar had returned to relative calm after four days of protests and violence.

While the presidential camp blames the protesters, the opposition has denounced what it describes as an "abuse of power".

Opponent and presidential candidate Idrissa Seck is calling for calm, and on the Senegalese President, Macky Sall, to clarify his intentions for the next presidential election, in order to avoid more violence. 

He told RFI that "the problem with a third term is that even the prospect of it is causing turmoil."

He added: "We are seeing violence and upheaval in our typically peaceful streets. We have seen death. This is not good for our people. Nor is it good for Senegal's global reach. This situation will only worsen if President Macky Sall announces a bid for a third term. It would be unprecedented and deeply damaging for Senegal."

Protesters are angry that President Macky Sall has refused to rule out running for a third term while Senegal has a two-term presidential limit.

Call to stop the violence

At least 16 people are known to have died in the clashes between demonstrators and security forces in the capital, Dakar, and in Zinguinchor in the region of Casamance, in the south of the country.

The Red Cross in Senegal claimed yesterday that almost 360 people were injured in the violence.

The violence broke out on Thursday after the opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, who is the mayor of Zinghinchor, was sentenced to two years in prison.

Sonko's supporters say his conviction on charges of "corrupting" a young woman are politically motivated and designed to prevent him from running for president.

They have condemned what they called the "murderous repression" by the national security forces.

Sonko's party, the PASTEF, has also condemned the restriction to the mobile internet by the government, to stop what it called "subversive messages" from being shared.

Difficult dialogue

According to Idrissa Seck, who was the head of the Economic, Social and Environmental Council in Senegal until late April, only Sall's clear indication that he will not run for a third term will appease the Senegalese people, especially young people. 

"I pray, I believe and expect that President Sall will not run at all," he added.

In April, Seck announced that he intends to run for president in Senegal's next election, scheduled for February 2024. 

He is taking part in the "national dialogue", opened by the President Sall last Thursday, which most of the other opposition parties are boycotting, including Sonko.

Seck told RFI that "the priority should be to protect democracy", and hopes to rally the opposition around him.

Now 63, Seck was prime minister of Senegal from November 2002 to July 2004, and placed second in the 2019 presidential election.

"It's the priority of the government to maintain peace and stability," Seck concluded. "So, I call all opposition leaders to focus on that too."

(with newswires)