Senegal's exile ex-president comes home to support son

By Drum Digital
23 April 2014

Senegal's former president Abdoulaye Wade is home after two years abroad following his election defeat.

Senegal's former president Abdoulaye Wade was due to return home on Wednesday after two years abroad following his election defeat, with his son facing jail for corruption.

Wade, who held power from 2000 to 2012, moved to France after suffering a bitter defeat to current President Macky Sall, his former prime minister turned arch-rival, in March 2012.

During Wade's absence, the country's new authorities have gone after his son Karim, accusing him of using corrupt means to amass a fortune when he was a so-called "super minister" in his father's cabinet.

Karim Wade, 45, whose wealth includes land in Dakar, a fleet of luxury cars and media and finance companies operating across Africa, has been on remand in Dakar for a year and is due to be tried in June.

His lawyer Mohamed Seydou Diagne told AFP on Monday that prosecutors have lowered their estimate of his client's allegedly ill-gotten fortune from 800 billion CFA francs ($1.7 billion, 1.2 billion euros) to 117 billion CFA francs.

The elder Wade, who has been living in the French town of Versailles, has scrapped several planned homecomings in the past.

A deeply divisive figure, his attempt to extend his mandate in 2012 sparked widespread unrest across Senegal with violent and at times deadly demonstrations in Dakar plaguing the run-up to the election.

"Wade is a father. He has a duty to come and back his son," the retired statesman's spokesman Serigne Mbacke Ndiaye told AFP.

He added that, as secretary-general of a party due to contest upcoming local elections, Wade was obliged to return in a show of support for its candidates.

His Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS) is planning a welcome rally to greet its leader at the airport, followed by a march, local media said.

The 87-year-old was expected to begin a PR offensive in support of his son soon after his arrival, with a party meeting which he has signalled he plans to stage despite it being banned over fears that it would spark public disorder.

"We're not changing our plans. We're going to the meeting. Hopefully everyone will come to the meeting," Wade told radio station RTI before boarding his plane for Dakar, adding that he no intention to "destabilise" Senegal.

In an interview on Monday with French daily newspaper Le Monde, Wade said his successor's government was waging a "witch hunt" against him and his allies.

"Macky Sall has used the idea of battling corruption to fight Karim, to convict him, to take away his civil rights so he won't stand in 2017," said the former president.

"If my son Karim ends up in prison, it's because (Sall) saw in him the only rival capable of taking him on."

Senegal is due to stage local elections on June 29, with the PDS wounded by its leader's exit, despite still holding a majority of the west African country's regions.

"The PDS has been weakened by the absence of a leader capable of uniting everyone, even if it remains the majority party," Wade Snr told Le Monde.

"I'm past being of an age where political ambition is important to me. I'm no longer interested in running for a position of power in Senegal, but that doesn't mean I've quit politics."

Seydou Gueye, a spokesman for Sall's Alliance for the Republic told a local radio station that "we would have liked to welcome him as a former head of state (but) he has decided to opt for a political return".

"No one gets to destabilise the state," Gueye added.

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