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Election anger mounts in Senegal

In rebellion, Repression on February 21, 2012 at 12:54 pm

Aljazeera

Senegalese are continuing their protests against incumbent president Abdoulaye Wade’s decision to seek a third term in office, erecting barricades and pelting police with rocks just days before a presidential election.

The state-owned news service confirmed the death on Monday of a young man in a suburb of the capital Dakar as demonstrations intensified, and the opposition said they would organise more protests.

Several people have been killed since the street clashes began late last month after Wade’s candidacy was validated by the country’s top legal body.

The 85-year-old Wade, who came to power in 2000, is insisting on running again, despite the deepening unrest and calls from both France, Senegal’s former colonial master, and the US to hand power to the next generation.

Wade will face more than a dozen rivals in the election, including former allies Macky Sall and Idrissa Seck. A runoff will be held if no candidate wins more than half the total vote.

“We will not give Abdoulaye Wade any rest until he understands that he can’t run in these elections.,” Tidiane Gadio, an opposition candidate, told Al Jazeera.

“The people of Senegal and the leadership of the opposition have the resolve to prevent him from running in these elections.”

Religious dimension

Clashes took on a religious dimension in the normally tolerant West African Muslim nation on Sunday, with hundreds gathering outside a mosque as religious leaders met to discuss an incident in which police used grenade launchers and hit the wall of a mosque.

Footage of the incident shown on Senegalese TV indicated that the police had not shot inside the mosque, only outside where a crowd had gathered.

But the cloud of gas enveloped worshippers praying both inside and outside the shrine, deeply offending Senegal’s largest Muslim association which owns the mosque.

As the crowd outside the mosque grew larger on Sunday morning, a lorry full of riot police took a defensive position at one end of Lamine Gueye Boulevard, prompting dozens of youths to erupt in jeers.

They then began grabbing cinderblocks from a nearby construction site, smashing them on the pavement in order to make smaller projectiles which they hurled at police. Security forces responded with waves of tear gas.

Clashes later erupted in several other suburbs and neighbourhoods of Dakar, raising the tension seven days before Senegalese are due to go to the polls.

Opposition leaders and civil society group M-23 have threatened to make the country ungovernable if Wade does not step down before the vote, arguing that his candidacy violates constitutional term limits.

Adama Gaye, a Senegalese journalist, said the situation in the country was “extremely serious” and branded Wade an “autocrat” and “power hungry”.

“Nobody is going to accept what he [Wade] is doing,” he told Al Jazeera over phone from Dakar on Monday.

Wade argues that his first term should not be counted towards a two-term limit because it started in 2000, a year before the limit was introduced.

His rivals have so far struggled to forge a unified front against him. Wade, who led street protests before coming to power in 2000, has mocked the opposition for failing to mobilise a serious challenge and dismissed foreign criticism.

 

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