Keeping a closer eye on Senegal’s political & security developments

Jun 20, 2022, 12:00 PM | Article By: Samsudeen Sarr

The political turmoil in Senegal yesterday that I feared was going to develop into a figurative category-five hurricane of internal stability relatively ended in a weaker tropical storm. I think the preventive house detention of the opposition leader, Ousman Sonko, by the Senegalese security forces who barricaded him from attending Friday prayers at the mosque where he had intended to lead the unauthorized “mass” protest helped to reduce the amplitude.

That to me was an admirable security Gambia, usually denounced as illegal, but occasionally recommended and executed to stave off potential national security threats. Considering the 14 protesters who lost their lives during the violent eruption in March 2021 over the intention of Senegal’s law enforcement agents to prosecute Mr. Sonko on a frivolous allegation of sexual assault, I think bringing into service every possible game plan to avoid its recurrence was remarkable foresightedness. 

And instead of allowing Sonko’s supporters to converge around his barricaded residence like they did last year, the security forces barred all of them from coming anywhere near his home while they further blockaded The Place de la Nation, the broad esplanade where the protest was scheduled to commence at 3:00 p.m.

However, with all precautions in place, the city of Dakar and Ziguinchor still experienced sporadic street commotions mainly limited to throwing harmless stones and incinerating used-vehicle tires in the streets. The police responded with firing teargas that effectively dispersed the young men involved. Although some Senegalese reporters in Dakar had reported the death of an unnamed protester from an undisclosed cause. Notwithstanding, one must conclude from the optics of a security scrutinizer that the Senegalese law enforcement agencies handled  yesterday’s crisis with impressive results.

That said, I think it was a classic proverbial victory of the government of Mackey Sall in one battle from an ongoing war against the defiant opposition forces led by Ousman Sonko; and I can see more and harder battles to fight in the near or distant future.

Anyway, for the minister of interior to deny certain opposition members and Sonko in particular their constitutional rights to contest in Senegal’s parliamentary election next month on a trivial technical error of incorrectly registering their names goes to expose a level of partisanship in the Sall government that evoked the fears of the population into unrelated but pertinent matters.

It was apparent that the primary purpose of the failed protest yesterday was the silly effort of the Senegalese government to prevent Sonko and other opposition party leaders from contesting in the July parliamentary polls; but because of the devious methodology applied, people came up with all kinds of random accusation of why President Macky Sall can no longer be trusted.

The women in Ziguinchor were heard grousing about how President Macky Sall is hell-bent on destroying the political career and presidential ambition of Ousman Sonko whose roots from Cassamance often makes his candidature an unsavory ethnic and regional concern. 

But listening to some of the Dakar protesters as well the rhetoric went beyond the immediate hiccup. They have been saying that Mackey Sall whose term in office constitutionally ends in 2024 is doing everything to alter the Senegalese constitution to contest for a third term. That in a recent ECOWAS summit where all 15 member states were required to endorse the long-awaited resolution requiring every nation to strictly adhere to a two-term limits if their constitutions say so and not to alter them under any circumstances ended with Senegal, Togo and Ivory Coast refusing to sign the protocol. The whole idea was first tabled in 2021 where even The Gambia that doesn’t have a presidential term limit was urged to review her constitution and quickly include the maximum two-terms.

Ghanian President Nana Akufo Addo, Chairman of ECOWAS, former president of Sierra Leone Ernest Bai Koroma, who stepped down after completing his second term, and former Liberian President Laureate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf championed the need for the resolution. They used examples like Guinea Conakry and Burkina Faso where the ultimate ramification of the alteration turned lamentable. It was merely to illustrate the counterproductively of such constitutional amendments.

I don’t know who represented The Gambia in that meeting but whoever he or she was seemed to have endorsed the agreement while we are still using the 1997 constitution that doesn’t have  presidential term limit and is yet to be reviewed and incorporated. 

One could understand President Alassane Ouattara of The Ivory Coast refusing to endorse the accord after he had, in order to contest and win a third term in office, amended the Ivorian constitution and killed over 3000 protesters.

As for Togo, the presidency has become a quintessential dynasty since the father of the current president served as the first president of the nation from 1967 to 2005 and then handed the throne over to his son. It is said that President Faure Essozima Gnassingbe Eyadema who took over from his father Gnassingbe Eyadema is grooming his son as a successor. What’s the difference here when compared to the North Korean Kims?  

So to hear or see that Mackey Sall who should complete his tenure in 2024 was against the ECOWAS protocol and doesn’t hesitate to use his security forces to crush any threat to his leadership ambition causes serious concern to the Senegalese electorate. I am afraid that if he plans to stay longer than 2024 it might precipitate the final major war against Ousman Sonko which he may lose or win with possibly many lives lost.

The Gambia should keep a close eye to this precarious political future of Senegal that can seriously affect our national security foundation.