Massive Anti-Wade Protest Held in Senegal’s Capital

Posted January 31st, 2012 at 1:55 pm (UTC-5)
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Hundreds of thousands of Senegalese are staging a peaceful demonstration in the capital, Dakar, calling on President Abdoulaye Wade to give up his controversial bid for a third term.

A local journalist tells VOA that at one point the exuberant crowd, made up largely of young people, held up their arms and sang, “Society is moving, we are taking notice, we respect Senegal.”

Scores of riot police, some in armored vehicles, kept watch on the demonstration but said they were there simply to keep the peace.

Just before the protests started on 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.

The ruling sparked riots across the West African country that killed at least three people.

President Wade's re-election bid has raised international expressions of concern and pleas for calm.

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.