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Senegal’s political war persists-Wednesday, June 29, 2022, new battle lines are drawn

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By Samsudeen Sarr

It is becoming increasingly alarming that the Senegalese opposition coalition parties called Yewwi Askan Wi best translated to mean, free the natives, remain determined to fight their political discord with the government of President Macky Sall to the last combatant standing. The level of defiance manifested by the six party leaders-Habib Sey, Halifa Babacarr Sallah, Shiekh Tijan Jaye, Madam Maimuna Busso, Shiekh Tijan Yuum and Ousmane Sonko-in their press conference Monday captured the variety of intransigence reminiscent of the ongoing Zelenskyy-Putin confrontation. No surrender no retreat from either antagonist!

Starting Wednesday, June 22, at 8:00 p.m., Sonko in his closing remarks at the Dakar press conference urged all Senegalese citizens in opposition to the government of Macky Sall and its policies to echo ten minutes of loud noise from wherever they are by banging pots and pans or anything that clatters in an endeavor to register their dissatisfaction with the president. Drivers on the road, be they private or commercial ones, are also encouraged to honk their horns in solidarity with the effort.

Ousmane Sonko further enjoined their supporters to act nationwide and not to confine the exercise in the City of Dakar alone.

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However, compared to the intended demonstration for Wednesday, June 29, 2022, the drill will appear superficial and negligible.

They have talked about the possibility of remaining in the streets as of June 29 until they achieve their objective for the government to respect their rights to contest the July 31 legislative elections and the unconditional release of three of their colleagues illegally arrested and detained in the June 17 demonstration.

Without doubt, the way the security forces handled the Friday incident by barricading the residence of the opposition leaders including that of the mayor of Dakar, Barthelemy Dias, and prevented them and their supporters from coming together for their “peaceful march” looked successful in the eyes of the government and their sympathizers; although holistically it was indeed unconstitutional. It was not just unprofessional and unlawful but the image of law enforcement agents concealing their faces with ski masks during such operations reflected badly on their rectitude. Security agents in such operations are nowadays obliged to show their faces, wear their name tags and badges and if affordable even carry body cams for accountability. Would they have been willing to carry out such illegal orders of preventive-house detention and firing live rounds to unarmed protesters if they were to show their faces? I doubt it. I wrote in my last article that one protester was killed in Dakar, but reporters later identified two more dead youth in Ziguinchor and Bignona that was confirmed at the press conference.

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Sonko and the Yewwi Askan Wi leaders emphatically said it all. That Macky’s political chicanery against them are all geared towards his aim to run for a third term that they will battle and win nationally and internationally. That the resistance they are nationally putting up against him is already gaining global momentum especially at ECOWAS headquarters where twelve out of the fifteen member states have ratified the two-term limit for all elected West African presidents. In fact the one serving head of state, Nana Akufo Addo of Ghana and the two former ones, Ernest Bai Koroma of Liberia and Laureate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia who initiated and sponsored the bill all questioned the effectiveness of elected presidents after serving for two terms or ten years.

So to deny Macky Sall the liberty to stay beyond 2024 when his term ends and in recognition of the implementation of the ECOWAS protocol to outlaw the practice, the case of The Gambia comes to mind. We cannot pretend to forget that one of the major reasons for the failure of the new draft constitution to pass at our National Assembly was the inclusion of a presidential two-term clause that would have disallowed President Barrow to seek a third term after 2026. As a result, when our president was elected in December 2021, the impression I got from all his supporters was that he could seek another term after 2026 albeit that will by all indications contravene the ten-year strict limitation advocated by ECOWAS. That is why I am curious and dying to know how The Gambia interpreted the ECOWAS accord and went on to ratify it while Senegal didn’t because President Sall purportedly wants to run for a third term. Are we going to amend our constitution before 2026 to retroactively limit Barrow’s tenure to two terms of ten years only in line with the ECOWAS statute? Or is there a secret explanation behind our government’s action that ECOWAS pretty much understood but of which the Gambian people are yet to learn about its implications?

On a final note, Vice President Badara Joof did question the coherence of our foreign policy towards Senegal during their special retreat last month that given the political uncertainty developing around Macky Sall and his government these days ought to compel us to urgently get a cogent, practical and beneficial one right away, if we still haven’t. Because any major setback in Senegal’s political or internal stability will, one way or the other, affect The Gambia in many ways. Don’t ask me how or why. It’s our duty to know after six years of fraternizing with them.

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