2 killed in Senegal protest against Wade

2012-01-31 08:46
Dakar - Senegal readied for fresh protests on Tuesday after security forces shot dead a 60-year-old woman and a teenager at a rally against President Abdoulaye Wade's controversial bid for a third term.

Tensions have escalated in the West African nation after the constitutional council gave Wade the green light to run in February 26 polls, prompting international calls for calm and condemnations of violence.

Senegal, typically a beacon of democracy among troubled neighbours, was urged by Amnesty International to halt a clampdown on protesters after two people were shot dead by security forces in the northern city of Podor.

"Today's bloodshed marks a dramatic escalation in the violence that has plagued Senegal in the run-up to its elections," said Salvatore Sagues, the global rights body's West Africa researcher.

Washington, for its part, urged 85-year-old Wade to allow power to pass "to the next generation".

"While we respect the process, the political and legal process in Senegal, the fact that he's now been cleared to run, our message to him remains the same: that the statesmanly-like thing to do would be to cede to the next generation, and we think that would be better," State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told journalists.

"Our view is that Senegalese democracy is strong enough to move to the next generation."

But El Hadj Amadou Salla, minister of state and a senior Wade campaign official, said it was "too late" and the president's candidacy has already been validated.

The country's opposition has called for mass resistance to force Wade to step aside in the wake of the ruling, which sparked deadly riots on Friday in which a policeman was killed.

Fears of more violence

A fresh protest is planned for Tuesday afternoon, stoking fears of more violence.

The constitutional council on Monday dismissed all appeals against Wade's candidacy, leaving no legal recourse for opponents who accuse him of carrying out a constitutional coup.

A 17-year-old protester and 60-year-old female bystander were shot dead by paramilitary police who "opened fire on a crowd demonstrating against the constitutional council decision" in Podor, said Amnesty.

Details on Monday's protest in the distant northern town are sketchy, but sources say it was led by a regional leader of the June 23 Movement (M23) of opposition and civil society groups.

Senegal's presidential spokesperson Serigne Mbacke Ndiaye called for peace: "The real combat is the one we must lead to hold a transparent election... being a candidate means nothing," he told journalists.

"We deplore the will [of the opposition] to lead the country into chaos... we don't want Senegal to go up in flames."

M23 called for "a peaceful gathering" on Tuesday at 15:00 in Dakar in the suburb of Colobane, where Friday's rally exploded into violence.

A policeman was killed by rioters during running battles with youths who torched cars and shops, erected barricades and burned tyres on Dakar's main roads.

The opposition argues that the constitution allows a president to serve only two consecutive terms, but Wade says the law, which was amended in 2008, does not apply retroactively and cannot take into account his previous two terms.

Wade has dismissed opposition protests as "temper tantrums".

Constitutional coup d’état

Police, meanwhile, freed a co-ordinator of the M23 protest movement on Monday after two days in custody.

Alioune Tine, a prominent member of the African Assembly for the Defence of Human Rights (RADDHO) said he was freed without being charged.

"I still don't know what they accused me of," the activist told AFP.

Wade said in a recent interview with a local news website that he needs three more years to complete his projects, fuelling speculation that he wants to line up a successor.

Former colonial power France said Senegal was excluding some groups from the vote after three candidates including music icon Youssou Ndour were rejected by the constitutional council.

"France regrets that not all political sensitivities could be represented," foreign ministry spokesperson  Bernard Valero said.

Ndour, the country's most famous export, has urged the world to protest what he called a "constitutional coup d'etat".

Aside from Wade, the council approved 13 other candidates including three former prime ministers and main opposition leader Ousmane Tanor Dieng.

Read more on:    abdoulaye wade  |  senegal  |  senegal protests  |  west africa

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