Nothing should destroy Senegal – Obasanjo

2012-02-23 07:47

kalahari.com

Dakar - Former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo, who is officially in Senegal to observe this weekend's contentious election, met opposition candidates on Wednesday in an effort to mediate a growing political standoff in this normally peaceful nation.

The retired leader, who has helped mediate conflicts elsewhere in Africa, had told reporters upon his arrival on Tuesday that Senegal "is a very beautiful country and nothing should be done to destroy it".

Senegal is tense and an air of uncertainty blankets the capital with just five days to go before Sunday's presidential election. Businesses on the main commercial avenues surrounding the presidential palace are boarded up and pieces of plywood cover shop windows as if a hurricane is about to pass through town.

Daily protests have rocked the capital after the opposition vowed to render the country ungovernable if 85-year-old President Abdoulaye Wade runs for a third term on Sunday. Wade has been dismissive, characterising the protests as nothing more than a "light breeze which rustles the leaves of a tree, but never becomes a hurricane".

He has insisted that he still has a strong following, and to prove his point on Wednesday he held a campaign rally in front of thousands of people at a soccer stadium in Pikine, a downtrodden suburb of Dakar that is an opposition stronghold.

"Pikine has already massively voted in favour of its candidate," he said, as the crowd cheered and held up signs that said "Wade Forever".

"I have toured practically all of Senegal. And everywhere, I was received with this same enthusiasm ... Without a doubt, we will win," he added.

Senegal is considered the most stable in the region, but many people are now worried because the pace of the protests is unlike anything it has experienced in years. Senegal's democratic traditions run deep, with historians dating its democracy to at least the mid-1800s when France allowed citizens of the former colony to elect a deputy to the French parliament.

Personal militia


Obasanjo is officially in Senegal as the head of an election observation mission sent by the African Union and a regional bloc representing states in West Africa. But since leaving office in 2007, he has become one of Africa's high-powered mediators. At the airport on Tuesday he told reporters that he would not hesitate to help mediate a solution in order to "prevent the preventable".

Among the opposition leaders Obasanjo met on Wednesday was Wade's former protégé, ex-prime minister Idrissa Seck, who is now running against the leader.

Earlier this week, Wade's spokesperson Serigne Mbacke Ndiaye called a press conference to disclose that authorities had discovered that one of the 13 opposition candidates had recruited a personal militia with the aim of sowing unrest ahead of the vote.

Senegalese newspapers identified the candidate as Seck, even though Seck called the accusations absurd. Unlike the other candidates, Seck's bodyguards wear ski masks over their faces with cut-out holes for their eyes and mouth. They wear a black uniform, giving them a paramilitary look.

Some opposition candidates are calling for Sunday's vote to be postponed in light of the unrest, and anti-government demonstrators could try to disrupt the vote in polling stations to stop Wade from running.

From there it would be a slippery slope, if the recent election in the Democratic Republic of Congo is any indicator. Election day violence in DRC last December resulted in ballots being burned and poll workers attacked.

"We are not aware of any mediation"


Wade's spokesperson said on Wednesday that delaying the election is out of the question. He also said that Obasanjo is here to monitor the vote, and that he is not aware of a different reason for his visit.

"We're happy that Obasanjo has arrived in Dakar, but we are not aware of any mediation. Wade asked the international community a year ago to come and observe the election, and it is within this framework that he is here," said Ndiaye. "If he wants to meet, it's within the African tradition. If he thinks he could or should meet Wade, he can do so."

Obasanjo is also meeting with M23, a coalition of opposition groups which takes its name from the massive anti-government protests that immobilised the capital last June 23.

The M23 said in a statement that they are calling on the international community to do what it can to prevent Wade from running in Sunday's poll. Even though Senegal has one of the most established democracies in the region, people fear that the ruling party will try to rig the vote so that Wade wins.

- SAPA
Read more on:    olusegun obasanjo  |  abdoulaye wade  |  nigeria  |  senegal  |  west africa  |  senegal elections 2012
NEXT ON NEWS24X

CAR unveils new government

2014-08-22 18:53
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

20% off all TV Series!

Want to have a chilled day at home? Get 20% off TV series, the perfect excuse to "veg out". Shop now!

Save R700 on the Hisense LED TV Now R2499

Get the Hisense 32” HD ready LED TV for only R2499. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 40% off fashion accessories

Save up to 40% on selected handbags, purses, watches, jewellery and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Save up to R2000 on top electronics

Get every day mind bowing savings on top electronics. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

As seen on TV - New book releases at only R199 each

Get mind blowing book savings on new titles. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Your ideas may feel like a sea of thoughts swimming around every which way, and now you need to find something to contain them in...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.