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Senegal: after the pro-Sonko violence, Macky Sall delays

Senegal: after the pro-Sonko violence, Macky Sall delays
Demonstrators run after police fired tear gas during a demonstration...   -  
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Leo Correa/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.


Senegalese President Macky Sall is giving himself until the end of June to provide answers to the ongoing crisis eight months before the presidential election, when he is under pressure from all sides to dispel heavy uncertainties after deadly violence.

Questions abound a week after the eruption that killed at least 16 people, starting with those about whether or not the president will stand for re-election in 2024, who will be allowed to run and even whether to respect the calendar.

The events that took place from June 1 to 3, the blow to the economy and the damage done to the country's image of stability caused a shock. There is widespread concern about a new conflagration, many of the conditions of which remain in place, in a tense economic and social context .

The president waited until Wednesday to break the silence before the Council of Ministers. He delivered a message of firmness, speaking of "unprecedented violence" , whose "objective was undoubtedly to sow terror and bring our country to a standstill" , reported the presidency.

He expressed his "determination to protect the Nation" . He silenced the trigger that was the conviction of opponent Ousmane Sonko on June 1 to two years in prison in a sex scandal .

As it stands, Mr. Sonko, a popular figure among young people and underprivileged circles, can no longer run for president. He cries conspiracy to eliminate him politically.

Mr. Sonko is still stuck at his home in Dakar, "kidnapped by Macky Sall's regime" , his party's spokesman Ousseynou Ly told AFP. He is likely to be arrested at any time according to the authorities, at the risk of a flashback.

The president has said nothing about what should happen to him. He remained silent in the face of other heavy questions, such as the fate of opponents Khalifa Sall and Karim Wade .

They themselves were prevented by convictions from running against him in 2019. They too are crying out for the instrumentalization of justice , and they too are candidates in 2024, but still ineligible.

Analysts agree on the observation that the vagueness maintained by the president on his intentions in 2024 constitutes another factor of tension. No to a third term is a rallying cry for the opposition .

Mr. Sall was elected in 2012, re-elected in 2019. He had the Constitution revised in 2016. It stipulates that "no one may serve more than two consecutive terms" . Mr Sall's supporters are touting him as their candidate in 2024, arguing that the overhaul has reset the counters.

Calls are increasing to the address of the president, of the opposition to give up a third term and to put his disqualified opponents back in the running, but also of economic circles to dispel the fear of the next day.

International partners are closely monitoring developments in a country commonly praised for its stability and democratic practices . Human rights defenders have harshly criticized the crackdown on the unrest and internet restrictions.

Mr. Sall launched on May 31 a "national dialogue" supposed to ease the tensions. The initiative was boycotted by part of the opposition.

Abruptly addressed by Khalifa Sall on a third term, the president replied that there was "no taboo" and that the question could be part of the "dialogue" . He then hardened his tone: "To say that I will absolutely not be a candidate, in the name of what? (From) simple wanting" troublemakers?

Mr. Sall said Wednesday to expect the conclusions of this "dialogue" before June 25. Then, "he will address the Nation"._ He made an unannounced visit Monday evening to the Caliph General of the Mourides, a powerful religious brotherhood, considered to exert considerable influence in politics.

A new proposal has since been added to the debate: Mr. Sall would be ready to give up a third term on the condition that his current term be extended until 2026 in order to "restore order in the country" , reported the daily Le Witness . The 2024 presidential election would be postponed. The idea immediately divided.

Abdou Rahmane Thiam , professor of political science, believes that the president "must speak out clearly" and quickly. "This question (of the third term) is so divisive ," he said, recalling that it arose in 2011 with Abdoulaye Wade and that Mr. Sall then spoke out against the third term.

As for a two-year extension of the current presidency, it "can only be a trial balloon, it cannot be a solution" , he said.

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