The sub-saharan spring may start in Senegal

The news from Senegal is very concerning. Hundreds of anti-Wade, the aging Senegalese ruler, protesters continue to gather everyday in central Dakar, to show their dissatisfaction over the 86 year old incumbent president’s candidacy. Various reliable sources indicate that at least 4 people have died and the protest seems to be spreading in the interior of the country since two protesters were killed by the government security forces in a similar demonstration in Podor, a town located in the northern part of the country. It appears that just as in Arab countries last year, African presidents who would try to cling to power against the wishes of their population, by manipulating the constitution and the judiciary system, may risk the same popular rebellions that toppled Arab dictators. Maybe, Senegal is going to show the way.

In principle, people should be gathering in Senegal’s streets and public squares to hear campaign speeches in preparation for the presidential elections that is scheduled on the coming February 26th. However these days, they are not listening to candidates because protesters are busy demonstrating their displeasure with a constitutional court decision that decreed that Abdoulaye Wade, the incumbent president who has ruled already ruled for 12 years, could stand in the upcoming election despite being 86 years old. By the way, life expectancy in Senegal is only 59 years old. The more problematic aspect of Wade candidacy is that he is finishing his second and what should have been his last term in office, but the constitutional court ruled that the two-term limit in office that are mandated by that constitution did not apply to Wade, because this term limit provision came into existence after Wade had already been in office. The irony is that the term limit rule was written into the constitution by Wade himself. It is because of this twisted logic that an angry Senegalese public is battling riot police in the street.

The stubbornness of Abdoulaye Wade, who is determined to continue to rule despite the people wanting him to go, may well usher the first example of a Sub-Saharan African spring. It seems that these rulers think that their countries would not continue to exist if they left office. The interesting bit is that Wade was also trying to have his son succeed him as was done in Togo and Gabon, other francophone countries. But African populations are growing in maturity, even francophone Sub-Saharan ones, as is clearly evident in Senegal at the moment. It is therefore a real possibility that if the Senegalese people could stop Wade crazy monarchic project, other rulers like the despots of other African countries could be confronted with their own « African Spring ». The lesson of such a development would be that in the end, those who refuse to accept the popular will and wishes, those who would continue to mistreat and disregard their own population for the benefit of their petty clans, would be confronted by the same expeditious uprisings as were witnessed in the Arab world.

People like the Bongos or the Wades, who shamelessly manipulated hand-picked constitutional courts and pliant judiciaries to usurp or extend their rule, are so arrogant that they never fathom that the people would someday have the last world. As an example, Wade’s court also decided that Youssou N’Dour, Senegal’s most famous musician, could not compete in the election because the court could not identify all of his supporters’ signatures on his application petition. This is absolutely ridiculous when everybody and especially Gabonese people, know that Ali Bongo was allowed to become president of Gabon despite a clearly fraudulent CV, a fraudulent birth certificate, a fraudulent life story and last but not least a fraudulent election.

Contrary to Gabon, the country of Senegal has had what is recognized as a robust democracy but Wade is certainly putting this status in great danger. In Gabon, there is a movement called « Ça Suffit Comme Ça » that works to elicit change in the country; in Senegal, the protest movement is called « Y’En A Marre », meaning “We’re Fed Up”. Slowly but surely, African populations are becoming more and more ready to take on these arrogant, condescending and paternalistic regimes that are enslaving them. If the Senegalese people show the way, would other African populations follow?