Senegal President Abdoulaye Wade intends to run for a third term, and many of his citizens are not pleased.
Opposition riots and rallies over the past week have left three people dead, the Associated Press reports. Two of the deaths — of a 60-year-old woman and a teenager — came at the hands of Senegalese security forces. And the country is bracing itself for renewed protests Tuesday.
While Senegal is a stable democracy that has long been seen as a rare success story in West Africa, the unrest in the country now suggests otherwise. At the heart of the problem is the aging, frail president.
Wade, 85, has long been decried by his opponents as wasteful and capricious, having spent millions on pet projects like a giant bronze statue called the Monument to the African Renaissance.
But the larger problem, the Los Angeles Times reports, is the effort Wade has made to vastly increase presidential power under his leadership.
Some two-thirds of Senegalese senators are now chosen by the president. Presidential terms have been extended to seven years. Wade attempted to make it possible win the presidency with just 25 percent of the vote. And he once said he had never made a mistake during his decade in power.
In 2010, a U.S. diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks warned that Wade was trying to “open a path to a dynastic presidential succession.”
Washington recently urged Wade to let power pass on “to the next generation.”
Despite criticism at home and abroad, Senegal’s highest court ruled Monday that the president was constitutionally allowed to run for a third term.
The court also ruled that music superstar Youssou Ndour could not run because he did not file enough valid signatures. Ndour calls Wade’s attempts to cling to power a “constitutional coup d’etat.”
The opposition, however, looks likely to continue a battle of popular resistance against a third term for Wade. From African blogger Japheth J Omojuwa:
Senegalese rappers have also formed a collective “Y’en a marre,”meaning “enough is enough,” to fight against Wade’s leadership:
“They’re not going to put up with Wade sticking around in office,” Richard Downie, deputy director of the Africa program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, told the LA Times. “Whether he wins fair or unfair, there are going to be large protests.… This election will be decided on the streets.”
More world news coverage: