The people of Senegal go to the polls later this month to pick a president, in perhaps the most closely watched election in Africa this year. The nation’s Constitutional Court has validated two-term incumbent president, Abdoulaye Wade, and 13 other candidates for the race, which will culminate on Election Day, February 26.
In validating the president’s unprecedented candidacy, the court said that he was not bound by term limits set by Senegal’s Constitution because his first term began in 2000, before the limit was first introduced. The president, who has changed the Constitution 14 times while in office, says his quest for a third term is legitimate and his re-election is critical to the nation’s recent democratic and economic reforms. Political activists and opposition parties fear that his plans to retain power mean he is intent on creating a political dynasty.
The United States respects Senegal’s political and legal processes. The president indeed has accomplished much in office, but his decision to run for a third term is opposed in many quarters and it could jeopardize those accomplishments if it sparks a political crisis. We therefore encourage President Wade, as one of Africa’s respected elder statesmen, to pave the way for a new generation of African leaders.
Senegal has a vibrant civil society. We call on all Senegalese to participate peacefully and actively in the country’s democratic process, which has no room for violence. The United States continues to support the people of Senegal, and will work with government officials and civil society to further consolidate democracy there, and promote peace and stability.