Massive Anti-Wade Protest Held in Senegal’s Capital

Posted January 31st, 2012 at 6:30 pm (UTC-5)
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Police in Senegal have fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse protesters in the capital Dakar who are calling on President Abdoulaye Wade to give up his controversial bid for a third term.

Hundreds of thousands of Senegalese, mostly young people, staged what was to be a peaceful demonstration Tuesday. But by night protests turned violent as students threw stones at police and burned tires, and riot troops responded.

Many protesters expressed disappointment that Senegal's high court sanctioned the president's bid to run for a third term, which many consider unconstitutional. The court ruling sparked riots across the West African country that killed at least three people. Aliou Thoum expressed disappointment with the political situation in the country.

“I am even asking myself what country I am in. It is a country where peace has reigned. But now it is not the same because of the court's decision. It is time for him to go, he adds. He said that to Gaddafi and now the same situation applies to him.”

A VOA reporter said that earlier, the exuberant crowd sang, “Society is moving, we are taking notice, we respect Senegal.”

Scores of riot police, some in armored vehicles, were deployed to secure peace during the demonstration.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed concern about the growing tensions in senegal ahead of the elecion set for February 26. He aurged all sides to exercise restraint and pursue peaceful means to resolve electoral grievances.

Just before the demonstration started Tuesday afternoon, the government announced it had authorized the rally. The M23 opposition movement, which called for the protest, promised it would remain peaceful.

Senegal's election controversy deepened on Friday, after the country's constitutional court said President Wade can seek re-election in a February 26 poll.

Senegal's constitution limits a president to two terms. However, President Wade argued the rule does not apply to him because it became law after he was elected.

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

In June, anti-government riots broke out in Dakar after the ruling party moved to create the post of vice president and lower the percentage of votes needed to win the presidential election.

The president's opponents said the moves were aimed at making it easier for Mr. Wade to be re-elected, and for his son, Karim Wade, to succeed him. The proposals were later dropped.