Fri. Mar 1st, 2024

Senegal: crucial debate in Parliament, clashes in Dakar

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The gendarmes fired tear gas grenades to disperse small groups who were trying to gather in front of the National Assembly.

Agence France-Presse

Senegalese deputies began on Monday the examination of a critical text which would make it possible to postpone the presidential election and which caused new clashes outside the National Assembly transformed into a citadel by the presence policewoman.

The gendarmes fired tear gas grenades to disperse small groups who tried to gather in front of the Assembly at the call of the opposition and who retreated further while chanting Macky Sall dictator, of the name of the Senegalese president.

The Plateau district, seat of political decision-making, offered the extremely rare spectacle of protesters in small numbers playing tag and tag. mouse with the security forces among the Dakar residents going about their activities around the Assembly placed under the protection of dozens of gendarmes and police supported by heavy vehicles.

One of the demonstrators, Malick Diouf, 37, does not have a preferred candidate and not even a voter card, but he found it necessary to come and protest.

The main thing for me is to say no to this political agenda, this coup of force to try to stay in power, he told the newspaper. AFP.

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Senegal, renowned as an island of stability in West Africa, has been in the grip of great tensions since President Sall announced on Saturday, a few hours before the opening of the campaign, the postponement of the presidential election scheduled for February 25.

This decision virulently denounced by its detractors as a constitutional coup plunges the country into the unknown and raises fears of a boiling point. It caused an outcry among qualified candidates and in civil society.

It gave rise to the first repressed gatherings on Sunday and to the first arrests, including those of candidate Anta Babacar Ngom and former Prime Minister Aminata Touré, finally released.

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The first rallies and arrests took place on Sunday.

The Internet for mobile data was cut off, AFP journalists noted. The Ministry of Telecommunications cited the dissemination of hateful and subversive messages on social networks.

The government had already suspended access in June 2023 , in a context of political crisis. Elsewhere, the measure has become a common means of response to stem mobilization and communication via social networks.

The deputies began to examine at the end of the morning a report adopted the day before in the preparatory committee and proposing to postpone the presidential election by six months or even a year, to February 2025, depending on the content of this text distributed during the session and supported by the camp presidential.

Approval requires a three-fifths majority of the 165 deputies. It is not acquired. The vote is scheduled for today.

Adoption or rejection, the situation, unprecedented in a country which has regularly elected its presidents and has never experienced a coup d'état, a rarity on the continent, will remain highly volatile.

It is causing concern abroad. The Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union, the United States, the European Union, France, important partners of Senegal, have asked to work on a new date, and called for dialogue between the actors of the crisis.

This makes Senegal fear a new attack of fever like those that he experienced in March 2021 and June 2023, which caused dozens of deaths and gave rise to hundreds of arrests.

The vagueness maintained for months by President Sall on a new candidacy in 2024 had contributed to the tensions at the time. He finally announced in July 2023 that he would not seek a new mandate.

Despite widely shared indignation on social networks, the protest against the postponement of the presidential election has not massively won the streets. The University of Dakar, a historic center of protest, has been closed since the unrest of 2023, and the anti-system Pastef party has been hit by the arrests.

The opposition, however, denounces an authoritarian drift in power. With the postponement of the presidential election, she suspects a plan to avoid the inevitable defeat, according to her, of the presidential camp, or even to prolong the Macky Sall presidency, despite the commitment reiterated on Saturday by the latter not to represent.

The candidate of the presidential camp, Prime Minister Amadou Bâ, is contested within his own ranks and faces dissidence.

President Sall invoked the serious conflict which broke out between the Constitutional Council and the National Assembly after the final validation by the court of 20 candidacies and the x27;elimination of several dozen others. He alleged the risk of pre- and post-election protests and new clashes as in 2021 and 2023.

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