Sunday, March 25, 2012

Octogenarian Abdoulaye Wade Concedes Electoral Loss

Outgoing President Abdoulaye Wade
Winner Macky Sall
Senegalese president, 85 year old Abdoulaye Wade, who tinkered with the interpretation of the country's constitution to allow him to run for a third term has today conceded defeat at the polls and graciously called  50 year old opposition leader, Macky Sall, to offer his congratulations.

News reaching the Segbwema blog from the Senegalese capital Dakar states that there are widespread celebrations in Dakar. Speaking in front of thousands of ecstatic supporters, Mr Sall described his victory as a victory for all Senegalese and stated that he intended to become the president of every Senegalese and not just those that supported or voted for him.
Sall Heading to Rally

Poet Senghor, Senegal's first President
Great African Intellectual 
Ex President Abdou Diouf
Mr. Abdoulaye Wade spent about 30 years as an opposition leader, trying unsuccessfully  for decades to unseat the socialist party that ruled Senegal from the end of French rule in the West African country. Abdoulaye Wade's tenacity as an opposition leader was remarkable. He contested four presidential elections. He first contested against President Léopold Sédar Senghor, the country's first president who ruled from 1960 until his retirement in 1980 and then three times against Senghor's chosen successor, President Abdou Diouf, who was in office from 1980 until he lost elections to Abdoulaye Wade in 2000.

When he became president, Abdoulaye Wade advocated for a successful amendment of the Senegalese constitution that would only allow a presidential tenure of two seven year terms. At the end of Wade's two terms however, he had a change of heart and decided to seek a third term, arguing the two term limit was not in effect when he became president and that consequently the rule did not apply to him. In spite of massive demonstrations by the public against a third term, Mr Wade's candidacy was officially approved by the constitutional council, a five man panel of judges. Following the council's decision to allow a third term for the president, there were widespread opposition demonstrations across the country.

Even before the term limit, the president had initially tried to lower the percentage needed to win an outright poll to 25% of the votes. The opposition had seen this as an attempt by President Wade to cling on to power and groom his extremely unpopular son, Karim Wade, to replace him as leader based on the examples of Togo and Gabon, where ex presidents Eyadema and Bongo were replaced in office by their sons. This led to violent country wide demonstrations that finally forced Wade to back down on lowering the percentage needed for victory.

The African Renaissance Monument
In recent years the once popular president Wade's rule has been marred by allegations of nepotism, cronyism, corruption and interference with press freedom. He has also been accused of lavish expenditure in the face of growing national poverty. In 2010, President Wade commissioned a 49m tall bronze statue called the African Renaissance Monument that had been built at a cost of 27 million dollars. Muslims denounced the statue as idolatrous and Christians were incensed when President Wade compared the statue to Jesus. Controversially, President Wade also advocated that 35% of tourist revenue from the Monument go to him for intellectual property rights, since the whole concept was envisioned by him. This caused immense outrage all across the country.

Senegal is one of the few African countries where all its leaders have retired and lived to a ripe old age. In most African countries, the norm is either to be chased out into exile or die violently in bloody military coups. Senegal is one of the few African countries that has had regular elections every so often. The southern part of Senegal known as Cassamance,  separated from the northern part by the small nation of Gambia, has had a low key  insurrection for many years by rebels seeking separation from the predominantly Muslim north.

Sheku Sheriff
Segbwema Blogger

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