Senegal's president concedes defeat, a welcome step in region of coups
After winning court permission to run for a third term, overriding a constitutional ban, President Abdoulaye Wade steps aside – breaking a pattern of Senegalese leaders overstaying their welcome.
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In Ivory Coast last spring, former President Laurent Gbagbo refused to concede defeat, leading to an armed revolt by the supporters of Gbagbo’s main opponent, Alassane Ouattara. Airstrikes by French and the United Nations helicopters against the president’s palace helped to end the four-month stalemate, in which at least 400 people were killed.Skip to next paragraph
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And in Mali last week, junior Army officers launched a coup d’état after repeated protests against the government’s failure to provide the army with adequate arms and food to fight against northern Tuareg rebels. The African Union has suspended Mali’s membership, and opposition parties have called for swift elections, leaving the mutineers politically isolated.
Senegal's democratic record
Senegal, by contrast, is one of the few countries on the continent that has not had a military coup, and this fact gives the country greater credibility in international forums and gives investors greater confidence in the country’s stability. Even under French colonial rule, Senegalese have exercised the right to vote since 1848, and have sent deputies to represent them in Paris.
Yet despite having the right to vote, Senegalese do not enjoy full rights to free expression, human rights advocates say. Human Rights Watch issued a report late last year warning of an increasing pattern of government repression against critics of the Wade administration, and the United States embassy in Dakar issued a rare public statement against Wade’s attempt to alter the constitution to allow him to run for a third term.
The US, the statement said, “is concerned that a constitutional law that would so fundamentally change the system used to elect Senegal’s President for the past 50 years has been proposed without the benefit of a thorough, meaningful and open debate among a broad spectrum of groups and concerned citizens, and that making this change so close to the next elections could result in weakening Senegal’s democratic institutions.”
* Keep Calm, a winking reference to the World War II slogan "Keep Calm and Carry On," is a new blog that aims to provide a bit of context to help make sense of confusing news events.
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