AU, ECOWAS Join to Address Pre-Election Violence in Senegal

Posted February 20th, 2012 at 4:20 am (UTC-5)
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The African Union and the Economic Community of West African States are sending a joint team to try to stop the violence in Senegal ahead of next Sunday's presidential election.

Former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo is leading the mission. ECOWAS communications director Sonny Ugoh told VOA that despite deadly clashes between protesters and security forces, the situation can be resolved through dialogue.

“We also believe that there is sufficient provision in the legal instrument in the country as to how to respond to a variety of situations, including this one. We believe that if they continue to come to the table to talk, they can mutually find a solution.”

Officials said one person was killed Sunday in the city of Kaolack as protesters clashed with police over President Abdoulaye Wade's bid for a third term.

The opposition, led by the M23 movement, says Mr. Wade is ineligible for re-election due to the constitution's two-term presidential limit. But last month Senegal's highest court ruled the limit does not apply to Mr. Wade since he was already in office when it took effect.

At least six people have died in street clashes since protests began after the court ruling.

A spokesman for Mr. Wade's re-election campaign told VOA he is confident the president will win Sunday's vote.

“I have no doubt that President Wade will win at the first round. We won't have a second round because he is loved by the Senegalese people. He works a lot, and he works very well. Everywhere you are, you see something realized by President Wade.”

The United States and France have urged Mr. Wade, who is 85, to surrender power to make way for a younger generation.