Wade's son slams monarchy-like system

2011-07-04 18:45

Dakar - The unpopular son of Senegal's president said in an angry and defensive letter that he has been maligned in protests against him and against his father's alleged plan to install him as vice president.

Karim Wade, a minister of state, said in his open letter sent late on Sunday that he strongly opposes the idea of a monarchy-style system of succession. He said that was not the intent of a recent proposed constitutional change to create a vice presidential post, which critics said was earmarked for him.

"Never in the history of Senegal has a public figure received as many blows, defamatory remarks and insults," he said, referring to himself.

Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade has been in power for more than a decade, and critics fear that the 85-year-old is trying to pave the way for his eldest child to succeed him. He has denied he is attempting to install his son.

Last week, a coalition of 60 organisations in the West African nation vowed to continue protests unless the younger Wade resigns from his government position.

The president agreed on June 23 to cancel a proposed change to the constitution after massive street protests that marked the biggest challenge to his 11-year rule and threatened to derail a country known as one of the most stable in the region.

In his letter, Karim Wade said the idea of passing down power through a family, as in a monarchy, "is an insult to Senegal.

"This confusion must stop! This intoxication must stop! This injustice must cease," Karim said in the letter.

Growing discontent

He said that such a project "was, is and will never be the intention of the president of the republic or of mine".

Senegal is a moderate Muslim nation with one of the most established democracies in the region, but the country is facing its worst power outages in a decade and the cost of living has spiralled. There is growing discontent over the octogenarian president's attempt to run for a third term, as well as the increasing influence of his son.

Once a symbol of the opposition, Wade came to power in a landmark election hailed for being one of the first peaceful transfers of power on the continent. Outgoing President Abdou Diouf is held up throughout Africa for stepping down without a fight, and for telephoning Wade on the night of his defeat to congratulate his opponent.

Since then, Wade has strayed from his roots, going the way of other entrenched African leaders who have used control of state institutions to prolong their stay in office. In October, he named Karim Wade as energy minister.

He set off a wave of criticism in 2009 when he announced he planned to run for a third term in 2012, using a loophole in the electoral law to circumvent the constitution's two-term limit.

"Like any human being, I ask to be heard, judged on verified and evident acts and not on unfounded rumors," Karim Wade said in the letter. He blamed politicians "aided by some journalists" for the resentment toward him.

In the same letter, he compared Senegal to other democracies, such as the US, France and England.

"With us, there is only one way to gain power," he said. "Power is not inherited, it is won by the ballot box."