Senegal on Edge, Bracing for More Violence

Posted January 28th, 2012 at 12:25 pm (UTC-5)
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Tension is running high through the streets of Dakar, where police are bracing for another night of violent protests.

Opposition demonstrators set tires on fire and hurled rocks at police late Friday despite being met with roadblocks and volleys of tear gas. Others burned down the headquarters of President Abdoulaye Wade's Senegalese Democratic Party.

The protesters say they are outraged by Friday's ruling from the Constitutional Court giving Mr. Wade permission to seek a third term in office and banning several opposition candidates from next month's contest.

Opposition leaders called for renewed protests Saturday, with some going as far as to call on President Wade to step aside and withdraw his candidacy.

In the meantime, police patrols have increased in Dakar and other Senegalese cities.

Several candidates whom the court rejected are appealing the decision. Among them is international pop star Youssou N'Dour.

A spokesman for the singer-turned-activist told a reporter Saturday that N'Dour will “fight to the end” against Mr. Wade.

An amendment to the Senegalese constitution limits a president to two terms, but the court agreed with lawyers for the 85-year-old president who argued that his first term of office pre-dated the constitutional change.

As it currently stands, the centrist Mr. Wade will face Socialist Party leader Ousmane Tanor Dieng and three ex-prime ministers – Idrissa Seck, Macky Sall and Moustapha Niasse – in the election, scheduled for February 26.

Mr. Wade was elected president in 2000 and re-elected in 2007.

Anti-government riots paralyzed Dakar in June after the ruling party moved to create the post of vice president and lower the percentage of votes needed to win the presidential election.

Opponents said the moves would make it easier for Mr. Wade to win re-election, and for his son, Karim Wade, to succeed him. The proposals were later dropped.