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Sunday, February 25, 2024

Can Senegal afford Macky Sall’s perilous political manoeuvre?

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By Abdulateef Ahmed, Nigeria’s News Central TV

President Macky Sall of Senegal is cooking up a political stew, and the ingredients smell suspiciously familiar. Disqualified opponents, delayed elections, and a dash of “national dialogue” – it’s the recipe for trouble that’s been plaguing West Africa for far too long.

Sall’s recent indefinite postponement of the presidential election has sparked international concern. The exclusion of key opposition leaders, including Ousmane Sonko, and the arrest of former Prime Minister Aminata Touré for protesting the election delay signal a perilous path for Senegal’s democracy.

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Was this not the same man who was once hailed as a champion of democracy?  Now he is tossing the hope of the electorate like the Ayò Olópón, and twisting electoral processes like a pretzel.

For long, he refused to specify if he would run in the February 2024 polls or not. However, he meshed his political opponents with ludicrous legal quagmires that ensnared some of them in disputed circumstances. These helped fuel deadly protests which were in fact, avoidable.

Remember Alpha Condé in Guinea, Alassane Ouattara in Ivory Coast, and Pierre Nkurunziza in Burundi? Their playbook of silencing dissent and clinging to power is eerily similar to Sall’s latest manoeuvres.

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In 2020, that was how Ouattara promised to not seek a third term, only to turn around to do so after the demise of his party’s candidate, Amadou Coulibaly.

Little wonder, Senegalese opposition politician Birame Souleye Diop was charged in court for suggesting Sall might poison his future political successor and then run himself, “Ouattara-style.”

First, he throws two key opposition leaders out of the race, then sprinkles in the “ineligible” label on another, all seasoned with dubious justifications. The aroma of political persecution fills the air, choking the democratic spirit of Senegal.

And what’s the main course? An indefinite election delay served with a side of “national dialogue” – a dish often used to mask power grabs while international pressure simmers. But the people of Senegal aren’t buying it. Protests erupt, a worrying sign of the potential for violent indigestion.

President Sall claims he’s not seeking a third term, but his actions speak louder than empty promises. Is he worried his handpicked successor can’t stomach a fair fight? Perhaps he’s developed a taste for power that even term limits can’t quell.

The international community needs to act as a sous-chef, not a passive observer. Ecowas and the AU must intervene before Senegal’s democracy becomes another burnt offering on the altar of authoritarian ambition.

This isn’t just about Senegal; it’s about the future of West Africa. If Sall succeeds in his power play, it sets a dangerous precedent, emboldening other leaders to follow suit. We can’t afford another helping of regional regression.

Sall needs to remember that the people of Senegal are the ingredients that truly matter in this democracy. He can choose to serve them a fair and transparent election, or watch his own legacy turn as sour as yesterday’s rotten fish. The choice is his, but the taste of his decision will linger long after the votes are (hopefully) cast.

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