Dissuading Senegal’s Wade: Is ex-Nigerian President Obasanjo the right person?
Senegalese opposition leaders have asked former Nigerian president, Olusegun Obasanjo, on an election observation mission in Senegal, to dissuade 85-year-old leader, Abdoulaye Wade from seeking a third term.
Tension has been palpable since Wade, who has served two terms in office, a limit he himself introduced, made changes to the constitution to enable him serve two more mandates.
And after a decision in January authorised the constitutional amendement, riots have broken out days ahead of the February 26 elections in the West African nation, with police firing tear gas to disperse protesters of Wade’s controversial third term bid.
The opposition known as June 23 Movement (M23) called for protests all week, despite a blanket ban imposed by Wade, warning it would not go to the polls if the president remained a candidate.
“No election will take place with the participation of Abdoulaye Wade,” one of M23’s leaders, Dialo Diop, told journalists.
The upsurge of tensions forced the African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) to send in Obasanjo with a mandate “to engage all the political stakeholders in Senegal with a view to promoting dialogue and ensuring peaceful, fair and transparent elections.”
The opposition has urged Obasanjo, who arrived in Senegal amid fresh clashes on Tuesday, to persuade Wade out of contention. However, Wade’s camp said Obasanjo was welcome to observe the forthcoming Sunday election, insisting that there was nothing for the former Nigerian leader to mediate.
Ironically, Wade, who insists on pursuing a third term bid, last year urged late Libyan leader and former ally Muammar Gaddafi and Ivory Coast’s Laurent Gbagbo to leave office.
Obasanjo, on the other hand, had in 2007 attempted to change the Nigerian constitution in order to seek a third term, but the plan was frustrated in parliament.
Senegal’s 13 opposition candidates have, however, failed to efficiently unite the masses against Wade, but small groups gathered on Tuesday in front of the presidential palace, for yet another march.
Election-related tensions have already claimed six lives and threatened the West African country’s image as a beacon of stability in the region.
The European Union observer mission called for “an end to violence … to allow Senegalese voters to exercise their right to vote peacefully on February 26.”
Obasanjo has less than a week to find a solution to the impasse, before Senegal holds its contentious presidential election.
More on the Senegalese 2012 elections:
– Will Senegal’s ballot be transparent?
– Is Wade’s machinery still at full blast?
– Senegal: Where does the international community stand?
– Senegal: President Wade is “preparing a surprise”
– Senegal: Paranoia and pandemonium for a third term?
– Zimbabwe: Replacing Mugabe, a Zanu-PF nightmare