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27 Feb, 2024 14:36

Senegalese president vows to leave office amid election turmoil

The postponement of the presidential vote had sparked concerns that Macky Sall intends to extend his rule by force
Senegalese president vows to leave office amid election turmoil

Senegalese leader Macky Sall has vowed to leave office at the end of his term on April 2, after critics and opposition candidates accused him of attempting to prolong his mandate by postponing a presidential election.

Sall made the pledge at a national dialogue on Monday, where he also announced that the delayed election will be held before the rainy season begins around July.

“By addressing the national dialogue, I wanted to clearly reaffirm that April 2, 2024, will mark the end of my mandate. I said it and I stand by it,” the president wrote on X (formerly Twitter) on Tuesday.

The West African nation has been in chaos since the first weekend of February, when Sall postponed the vote initially scheduled for last Sunday by ten months. He cited a dispute between the judiciary and lawmakers over the exclusion of key opposition figures from the final electoral list, including Ousmane Sonko, the imprisoned leader of the PASTEF party. Sonko, who has been at the center of political unrest since 2021, with supporters protesting multiple court cases against him, was disqualified due to his criminal record.

On February 15, the former French colony’s Constitutional Council canceled the “unlawful” legislation that altered the electoral calendar and directed the government to hold the election as soon as possible.

Sall, who announced last year that he will not run for a third term, has said he launched the national dialogue to set a new voting date.

“Dialogue and consultation are precisely what is needed to heal these weaknesses and move forward in the quest for the ideal of democracy,” he stated.

However, 16 of the 19 opposition candidates in the delayed election have reportedly rejected invitations to take part in the talks, insisting that a voting date must be set as soon as possible in line with the court’s ruling.

The Aar Sunu Election (Protect Our Election) coalition of more than 100 civil society organizations also boycotted the dialogue and called for a nationwide strike on Tuesday.

Addressing citizens at the forum, Sall announced plans to present a “bill for a general amnesty” for protesters arrested in deadly political demonstrations between 2021 and 2024.

“This will make it possible to pacify the political arena,” he insisted.

According to civil society groups, up to 1,000 opposition members and activists have been arrested since March 2021 across Senegal, usually seen as one of Africa’s most stable democracies.

“In a spirit of national reconciliation, I will put before the National Assembly this Wednesday in the council of ministers a bill for a general amnesty for acts relating to political demonstrations that took place between 2021 and 2024,” Sall said on Monday.

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