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Third-term uncertainty in Senegal, Pan-African opposition leader accused of sexual assault

Senegal’s Presidential election is due for 2024. However, the battle lines between Ousmane Sonko, who was in 2019 the youngest of the candidates in the Presidential elections, and incumbent President Macky Sall have already been long drawn. 

President Macky Sall has since his reelection, remained mute over speculations that he may contest for the third time in the “former Seat” of the French Colonial Rule in West Africa. 

In what is moving to be a part of the political culture of Francophone West Africa, several Presidents in the former French colony have in the past years embarked on constitutional review processes as the basis for their bid for more than two terms. Just recently Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara, at 78, and Guinea’s 82-year-old President Alpha Conde have both used the tactics of Constitutional review processes to extend their stay in power beyond two terms. 

Presidential terms limits in Senegal were introduced by former President Abdoulaye Wade in 2001 following his election a year earlier. Despite being praised for championing the term limit initiative, Former President Wade would in a decade later argue that the changes enacted in 2001 are not retroactive, thus, his “first” term should not be considered. The Constitutional Court in Senegal has already held or agreed on the non-retroactive nature of the Constitution.  

Following his election in 2012, President Macky Sall proposed to cut his term in office by two years as part of his constitutional reform projects. The Presidential term in Senegal was seven years. In 2016, Sall succeeded in a referendum to reduce the Presidential term from seven to five years. This was highly understood by the People of Senegal as a step toward strengthening democracy in Senegal. 

Has the Mission changed?

The proposition has fiercely been contested in the arena of public opinion in Senegal. Many commentators are suspicious of President Sall’s longing to seek a third term in office through the non-retroactive-ness of the Constitution like the Constitutional Court ruled in favor of Wade in 2012. If the reasoning of the Constitutional Court is anything to go by, Macky Sall’s “first term” in 2012 to 2019 would not court.  

Despite making several promises to serve only two, recent suggestions in Senegal have sparked concerns, especially over the President’s sudden silence on allegations of a third term bid plan. He was equally critiqued for failing to comment or condemn the actions of his counterpart in Guinea and Ivory Coast.  Will he bid for a third term? It remains mere speculation as to what the intention of President Sall is. 

Elimination of Political Opponents: Ousman Sonko Accused of Rape

The Pan African anti-imperialism political advocate, Ousman Sonko is currently viewed as the only genuine political force left in the opposition, in Senegal to face incumbent Macky should in ever attempt like former President Abdoulaye Wade to bid for a third term.  

In his first presidential contest, the 46-year-old former tax official finished third in the 2019 election, which saw President Macky Sall win a second term in office. Ousman Sonko is presently measured as the only potential candidate to stop Macky Sall from extending his stay in office. However, the leader of the new opposition party, PASTEF was last week accused of repeated sexual assault.

The Senegalese opposition leader and Law Maker has been accused of rape by a professional masseuse, one Adji Sarr.  The government of Macky Sall has initially quickly rushed to arrest Sonko but was met with strong public resistance with many, including Sonko himself reproving President Macky Sall of seeking to eliminate him politically.  

Political analysts and commentators in Senegal and France, including former President Wade, opined that the Government of President Sall is behind the plan to destroy Sonko’s political career. If convicted on the charges, Sonko would be barred from contesting in the crucial 2024 elections in Senegal.  

President Macky Sall has since his ascension to power, successfully drowned all persons he considers to be of a major political threat to him. In what many consider the final destruction of the opposition, President Sall got Idrissa Seck, a former Prime Minister and the leader of the REWMI PARTY, who came second in the 2019 presidential election, to serve as President of the Social Economic and Environmental Council (CESE). CESE is third in the national institutional ranking in Senegal. 

Previously, Macky Sall has jailed the son of the former President, Karim Wade, and Lord Mayor of Dakar, Halifa Sallah all of whom have since their “pardon” and release, either left the country or remain dormant in matters of politics in Senegal.  They were both highly perceived as strong Presidential candidates. 

Macky Sall and France: Why Sonko Matters

Macky Sall is largely seen as a close associate of France. Senegal, which is highly praised for its “stable democracy” is crucial for France. Historically, Senegal has been the administrative seat of the French colonial domination in Africa.  Since the election of President Sall in 2012, Senegal’s foreign policy has been characterized by the intensification and enhancement of relations with France.

On the contrary, Ousman Sonko’s political advocacy lashes out exactly against France’s imperial domination and Senegal’s continued dependence on its former colonial masters. Sonko, is also a fervent anti-corruption advocate and his ideas resonate with the youthful population, something the government of Sall and France fears. 

Sonko’s reform agenda includes severing long-established economic umbilical cords between Senegal and France. He opposes Senegal’s continuous usage of the CFA and remains opposed to Senegal’s keeping its serve in France. 

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