Senegal: President Macky Sall, Please Go

20 February 2024

In another setback for democracy in West Africa, Senegal's President Macky Sall on February 3, 2024, announced the postponement of the country's presidential election scheduled for February 25.

But last week Thursday, the Senegalese Constitutional Council declared the postponement illegal. Following that, President Macky Sall on Friday, said he would hold presidential elections "as soon as possible".

"The President of the Republic has taken note of this decision which lies within the framework of the normal jurisdiction mechanism of a democracy and the rule of law sanctioned by the Senegalese constitution," Sall's office said in a statement.

"The head of state will conduct necessary consultations to hold the presidential election as soon as possible," the statement added.

The entire controversy is a sad and unnecessary development and we urge the president to hold the election without further delay. It is unfortunate that this is happening in a region struggling to stem the tide of military takeovers. Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea are currently being run by military juntas, following successful coups. In all but that of Niger Republic, the coups were instigated by the then civilian presidents trying to perpetuate their tenure.

It is also painful in the case of President Sall that he was in the forefront of the regional body's effort to ensure the return to democracy in these four countries.

In his initial address to the nation, President Sall said his decision was prompted by the need to allow more time to resolve controversies over the disqualification of some candidates and a conflict between the legislative and judicial branches of government.

The Constitutional Council, the highest election authority, blocked a major party candidate, Karim Wade, because he held dual citizenship with France at the time he filed to run. Wade, the son of a former president and candidate for the Senegalese Democratic Party, accused two council members of corruption and appealed to parliament to delay the election.

Sall said his decision to intervene was necessary to prevent what he called electoral chaos.

The country's parliament then endorsed Sall's decision in a vote which saw the removal from the chamber, members of the opposition, who tried to block the voting.

To make matters worse the parliament fixed election for Dec. 15, six months beyond what the president requested. It also extended his tenure until his successor was installed.

The outcome of these actions by President Sall and the parliament has already plunged the country into turmoil. At least three people were reported killed by security agents while quelling protests by supporters of the opposition parties.

We, at the Daily Trust, recall that this is not the first time President Sall has shown the tendency to cling to power. In July 2023, there were protests in the country leading to the death of several people, following his failure to clarify his position on whether he would contest the February 25 election. It was later that he distanced himself from it.

We join the international community in condemning this decision by Macky Sall.

The ECOWAS called on Senegal to "urgently restore the electoral calendar," while the United States and the European Union both called for a reversal of the decision and that the election should be held as earlier scheduled.

However, we believe more needs to be done to show our anger and opposition to this reckless decision. It is disappointing that the regional body, ECOWAS, is treating the issue with levity. At a meeting of its Heads of State, held on February 6, it only agreed that the chairman of the body, President Bola Tinubu, should travel to Dakar to meet with Sall. Unfortunately, that trip could not hold and in the alternative a delegation, headed by the speaker of the ECOWAS parliament, Sidie Mohamed Tunis, was sent. We believe that this was a wrong move and would not show President Sall the seriousness of his action.

ECOWAS leaders, currently battling to restore order in its house, following the decision of Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea to withdraw from the organisation, must do more to impress on its members the need to adhere to the rule of law and all tenets of democracy.

We believe this is an opportunity for the organisation to stop the return of the military to governance, which is outdated and retrogressive.

ECOWAS must lead on this path to assure citizens of member countries of prosperity. We wish to remind President Sall that he owes this and future generations of Senegalese the duty to ensure that democracy thrives in Senegal.

It will be sad if President Sall, who not long ago chaired the African Union, perpetuates himself against the wish of the majority of the Senegalese.

Daily Trust urges Macky Sall to deeply reflect on the likely consequences of his actions on the continent, especially the ECOWAS sub-region. He must come to terms with the fact that he has a big role in ensuring the sustenance of democracy, not only in Senegal, but on the continent.

He must, therefore, ensure that new elections are held before the termination of his tenure on April 2, 2024.

He should note that he came to power through a democratic process, which has been in practice in his country since after President Leopold Senghor's long-term rule. Daily Trust's last word is; Go President Sall.

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