Macky Sall Rejects Controversial Third Term

Monday, July 3, 2023

In a significant development, President Macky Sall of Senegal put an end to months of uncertainty by declaring that he would not run for a third term in the upcoming elections next year. This decision paves the way for open and democratic elections in Senegal, a country known for its steadfast commitment to democracy amidst regional turmoil.

Having kept his ambitions closely guarded until now, Sall’s refusal to exploit constitutional revisions to extend the traditional two-term limit has eased tensions within the nation. In a televised address, he expressed his decision, stating, “My fellow citizens, after careful consideration, I have decided not to be a candidate in the election on February 25, 2024.” Sall emphasized that Senegal encompasses a multitude of capable leaders who can contribute to the country’s progress and development.

Sall acknowledged the challenges faced by Senegal, particularly during a time of socio-economic difficulties and uncertainties. His commitment to prioritizing the country’s advancement has guided his choice to step aside.

Prior to Sall’s announcement, his staunch critic Ousmane Sonko had called on the public to rally against him. The tensions escalated into violent clashes between Sonko supporters and security forces, resulting in the tragic loss of at least 16 lives. These incidents marred Senegal’s reputation as a beacon of stability in a region historically plagued by coups and civil unrest.

Sall, aged 61, was initially elected in 2012 for a seven-year term and re-elected in 2019 for a five-year term following a constitutional amendment. While the constitution limits the president to serving two terms, Sall’s supporters argued that the count was reset to zero with the 2016 revision. Notably, Sall had campaigned against a third term during the presidency of his predecessor, Abdoulaye Wade, who held power from 2000 to 2012, defying the trend of entrenched strongman leadership on the continent.

However, Sall had not designated a political successor, leaving room for speculation about his intentions for another term. This ambiguity contributed to rising tensions within the country. Sonko, a charismatic speaker who resonates with disenchanted young Senegalese, has consistently portrayed Sall as a corrupt figure aspiring to dictatorship. In response, Sonko urged the people to stand up against Sall’s potential candidacy.

Sonko himself was convicted on June 1 for allegedly “corrupting” a young salon worker, resulting in widespread protests. The government reported 16 deaths, while Amnesty International claimed 24, and Sonko’s party asserted the number to be 30. This conviction renders Sonko ineligible to run in the 2024 elections. Sonko alleges that the charges were fabricated to prevent his candidacy, an accusation denied by the authorities. Since May 28, he has been under house arrest, surrounded by authorities.

As the people of Dakar, the Senegalese capital, resumed work after the Tabaski festival, opinions regarding Sall’s potential re-election varied. Abdou Diagne, a 38-year-old car washer, expressed his desire for a change in leadership, stating, “I don’t want him (Sall) to stand again. We’ve already given him 12 years—it’s time for him to go and let somebody else take over.” Diagne emphasized that the people’s response would not be passive if Sall were to decide otherwise and hoped for a peaceful outcome.

Senegal now looks ahead to a future of transparent elections, as Macky Sall’s decision not to pursue a controversial third term brings a sense of clarity and stability to the political landscape.

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