Senegal's government pushed ahead Friday with a "national dialogue" following President Macky Sall's re-election this year, despite a boycott of the initiative by much of the opposition.
Interior Minister Aly Ngouye Ndiaye set up a commission that will discuss key issues ranging from the state of the economy and security to electoral reform and the environment.
Sall, 57, outlined the concept of a "dialogue" after taking his oath of office in April following his re-election in February.
He launched it on Tuesday in the presence of religious and tribal chiefs, representatives of civil society and a scattering of opposition leaders.
Sall described the process as "consultation."
"I have always thought that democracy cannot or should not be reduced to the state of permanent confrontation between government and opposition, between majority and minority," he said.
But critics say the initiative is a diversion from the country's problems, and what they say is the use of the law to stifle rivals.
Two leading figures, ex-minister Karim Wade and former Dakar mayor Khalifa Sall, who has the same family name as the president but is not related to him, were barred from contesting the February elections after receiving convictions in controversial court cases.
The "dialogue" has been snubbed by former prime minister Idrissa Seck and lawmaker Ousmane Sonko, who placed second and third in the elections, as well as by the party of former president Abdoulaye Wade.
The two other defeated candidates in the election, Issa Sall and Madicke Niang, are taking part.
Participants have two weeks with which to make proposals to the various themes. A former minister, Famara Ibrahima Sagna, has been appointed to steer the process.
Sall has vowed to implement measures for which there is "consensus." A previous "national dialogue" took place in 2016 but little emerged from it.