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Hundreds Protest In Senegal To Demand Speedy Elections

The crowd shouted "Macky Sall dictator" and "Free Sonko", singing a song in his praise.


A demonstrator holds a scarf during a march in Dakar on March 02, 2024, against the new amnesty law and for elections to be held before April 02, 2024. (Photo by JOHN WESSELS / AFP)

 

Several hundred people rallied in the Senegalese capital Dakar on Saturday calling for the country’s postponed presidential elections to be held before April 2, the date when incumbent Macky Sall’s term is set to end.

The protesters gathered at a sandy lot in a working-class neighbourhood for the protest, called by the “Resistance Front”, an alliance of opposition parties and campaigning groups.

Many brandished Senegalese flags and portraits of the opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, jailed since July for “incitement to insurrection” and barred from running in the presidential vote. Sonko has endorsed Bassirou Diomaye Faye, who is also in jail but who was cleared to be on the ballot.

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The crowd shouted “Macky Sall dictator” and “Free Sonko”, singing a song in his praise.

Demonstrators hold placards during a march in Dakar on March 02, 2024, against the new amnesty law and for elections to be held before April 02, 2024. (Photo by JOHN WESSELS / AFP)

Several speakers representing some of the election candidates addressed the crowd, including former prime minister Aminata Toure, a member of the “Bassirou President” coalition.

“What we are asking President Macky Sall is to organise these elections before April 2 and to give the keys to the palace to his successor face to face, so that we can begin to rebuild our country,” he said.

The West African country was thrown into a political crisis on February 3 when Sall postponed the presidential election planned for February 25. His announcement, denounced as a “constitutional coup d’etat” by the opposition, sparked huge protests that resulted in four deaths.

A demonstrator chants during a march in Dakar on March 02, 2024, against the new amnesty law and for elections to be held before April 02, 2024. (Photo by JOHN WESSELS / AFP)

On February 15, the constitutional council overruled Sall, and ever since the country has been waiting for a new date.

“We want an election before the 2nd (of April) with the 19 candidates retained by the Constitutional Council and for Senegalese democracy to continue to shine,” said one demonstrator, 27-year-old trader Assane Camara.

A national dialogue, organised at the start of the week by the president but boycotted by the opposition, had recommended holding the elections on June 2. Sall indicated that he would ask the constitutional council for its opinion on the request.

Colleagues, friends and family members hold up placards reading “freedom of speech stabs” during a demonstration in Dakar on March 1, 2024, after prominent female political journalist Maimouna Ndour Faye was stabbed after an interview on February 29, 2024. (Photo by JOHN WESSELS / AFP)

Saturday’s rally, approved by the authorities, ended in confusion following what appeared to be scuffles between supporters of rival candidates for the presidency, Sonko and Khalifa Sall, former mayor of Dakar (no relation to the president).

Supporters of the outgoing president have called for a “march for peace” Sunday morning in the capital Dakar.

AFP