Nigeria's President Tinubu heads to Senegal as political crisis deepens

By Melissa Chemam with RFI
FEB 12, 2024 LISTEN

Nigeria's president and head of Ecowas, Bola Tinubu, is due to meet Senegal's President Macky Sall today, Monday, to try and find a way to manage a political crisis created by the postponement of the presidential election that was scheduled to take place later this month.

During the meeting, the Nigerian leader is expected to  call on President Macky Sall to respect the constitution of his country and to avoid plunging Senegal into a sustained crisis.

In a press release published last week, Ecowas called on Senegal to “urgently restore the electoral calendar”.

Over the weekend, protests against the postponement grew. Violent clashes with the police resulted in the killing of three students in the capital Dakar, and in Ziguinchor in the southern region of Casamance, stronghold of ex-Pastef leader Ousmane Sonko. 

Senegalese voters also protested in European capitals over the weekend.

"The Senegalese took to the streets as they suffer terrible repression from the defence and security forces," Patrice Mendy, representing the Pastef party in France, told RFI.

"The Republic is in danger. This force must rise to establish order. They must serve the Republic, not serve a man or his regime."

Protesters vowed to continue their ongoing actions that left Dakar a virtual ghost town as schools and offices remained closed Monday morning.

Civil society movement Aar Sunu Election ("Let's Protect Our Election") will also organise door to door events and caravans.

Further protests across Senegal are expected on Tuesday.

Call for sanctions

An NGO which groups together nearly a thousand civil society organisations in West Africa, the West African Civil Society Forum (Foscao), criticised Ecowas and the African Union after President Sall's decision to postpone the presidential election.

In a press release, the Forum called on the two institutions to take their responsibilities and to make a strong position against Macky Sall's decision.

The regional executive director of Foscao Komlan Messié, told RFI that the credibility of the two organisations is at stake.

“We must say it - it is a constitutional coup d'état. It must be treated as such. This is why we are calling on Ecowas and the African Union to act quickly and use the same energy that they use to condemn military coups to condemn this coup,” he urged.

No going back

Meanwhile, Sall defended his decision to postpone elections in an interview with Associated Press (AP), his first since announcing the delay.

Sall however brushed off allegations that the decision was unconstitutional and that he'd created a constitutional crisis.

The country needs more time to resolve controversies over the disqualification of some candidates, he said.

The European Union on Sunday urged Senegal's authorities to "guarantee fundamental freedoms".

 (with newswires)