By the time this article is published, the day of the presidential elections in Senegal will have passed. On Sunday 26 February, the Senegalese people might elect a president for a seven-year term. However, at the time of writing, nobody knows for sure if there will be elections. Never in the history of the Republic of Senegal has the near future seem so uncertain. Will the elections be canceled? Re-scheduled? Will the Wade regime force its way through? Will the voters boycott the elections en masse? Will the political violence lead to insurrection? Or armed conflict? The African Union and ECOWAS have sent the former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo to Senegal in order to broker an agreement that is supposed to end the deadlock and defuse the tense situation. Who would have thought that necessary for Senegal? Alas, this intervention arrives too little, too late. For the last two years, the crisis has been brewing and the AU has looked away.
One man is responsible for the current crisis in Senegal, and his name is Abdoulaye Wade. Since January 27, the day that the Constitutional Court (composed of 5 judges appointed by Wade himself) decided that he was allowed to seek a third term, and now, 12 demonstrators have been killed, and many others injured and tortured by the police and security forces. How did the hero Wade manage to become the tyrant that he is today?
The new constitution of Senegal, which was adopted through referendum, limited the number of presidential terms to two. Obviously, then, Wade would not be allowed to run for a third term. The argument posited by his supporters at the moment is that said change in the constitution occurred during his first term, therefore it should not count as a full term. But a vast majority of Senegalese professors of Constitutional Law, including those who actually wrote the constitution, have said that Wade has completed two terms, and is consequently not allowed to run again for the Presidency of the country.
Moreover, in 2007, when asked whether he would seek a third term in the future, Wade himself had said that he had “locked” the constitution. In this video, Wade says, “J’ai bloque le nombre de mandats a deux. Donc, ce n’est pas possible. Je ne peux pas me representer” (I have limited the number of presidential terms to two. So, it is impossible; I cannot seek a third term). The fact is that at the time, Wade had possibly thought that he could groom his son, His Royal Highness the Prince Karim Wade to become the next King (pardon, President). But, when in 2009, Karim Wade ran to become mayor of Dakar and lost the vote even in the polling station where he had voted, Wade realized that this project of monarchic devolution of the presidency would fail.
I remember in 2000, while a young student at the University of Dakar, we welcomed Wade on campus and cheered him on during the presidential campaign. It was the first time in history that a presidential hopeful and opponent to the then Socialist Party was allowed on campus. It is because Wade epitomized all the hopes that we had to get rid of the corrupt Socialist regime under which we were born and grew up.
Wade’s victory in 2000 was possible due to two things: cell phones and private radio stations. The opening and liberalization of the media market in the 1990s had provided an avenue where the frustration of the people could be echoed on the radio stations; and on March 19, 2000, as soon as the voting polls closed, the citizens used their cell phones to call the radio stations and report the local results of the votes in their polling stations. It was clear that Wade had beaten Diouf almost everywhere, therefore rigging the elections was not possible, and Diouf had no choice but to accept his defeat.
Twelve years later, Wade has discredited Senegalese institutions to a point where we don’t know who is who and who does what. Never in the history of Senegal have those in power managed a country so carelessly. The examples are infinite but I will just give one. In 2007, Wade appointed Marie Lucienne Tissa Mbengue as the Minister of Education in the government. The following day, the lady wrote a resignation letter and explained that she is not qualified for the job because she only has a middle school diploma, not even a high school diploma! Furthermore, Wade has become an ATM where people would visit the presidential palace and leave with lot of cash. Can you imagine Obama distributing cash to his guests?
So this is a man, who is officially 85 years old but is said to be in fact 90 years old, and is seeking an illegal and illegitimate third term. Whatever happens in Senegal in the next few days, we must bear witness and testify that Abdoulaye Wade is responsible for any chaos that will engulf the country. There is a proverb in Pulaar that says: “koɗo humtata mbeewa,” which means that a guest should not untie the host’s goat. Abdoulaye Wade was a guest in the house of the people of Senegal for 12 years, and instead of leaving, he has killed our goat and is about to eat it.