Senegal: After dialogue, Sall struggles to win over doubtful public

Saturday March 02 2024
Senegal President Macky Sall

Senegal President Macky Sall. PHOTO | REUTERS


Senegal President Macky Sall has again reiterated his intention to leave office at the end of his constitutional mandate on April 2. Yet he is having a tough time convincing many of his compatriots.

On Thursday, Sall announced the outcome of a two-day national dialogue, which included a proposal of June 2 as the date for the much-anticipated presidential election.

The national dialogue was convened partly in fulfilment of a ruling by the Constitutional Council, a panel of judges which adjudicates on election matters. It followed the controversial decision by the resident to postpone elections initially scheduled for February 25.

That move sparked days of protests, arrests of opposition activists and deaths across the country.

Read: Senegal faces widespread unrest over vote delay

Sall had announced the postponement of the elections citing dispute sparked by the disqualification of several heavyweight presidential candidates. One of them alleged corruption within the panel.


The president argued that any election conducted under such circumstances could have its outcome tainted, hence his controversial decision.

After a challenge by the opposition, the Constitutional Council ruled on the matter, reversing Sall’s decision. It also ordered the president to announce new dates in consultation with competent authorities.

Sall chose the national dialogue to do so, arguing that the aim is to foster trust among the candidates and lawmakers, who had also instituted an enquiry into the matter.

The dialogue took place on February 26 and 27. According to reports, civil, political, and religious leaders attended.

But overall, the process was marred by massive boycott by the opposition, especially those whose candidates were disqualified for the pending election.

Read: Senegal opposition reject President Sall's dialogue offer

The official report containing the recommendations of the delegates is expected to be submitted to the president next week.

Sall said he would refer it to the Constitutional Council for its opinion before deciding on the final election date.

If the Council approves the proposed date, it will mean that Senegal will need an interim president to take the country to elections, that is if Sall keeps his promise of stepping down on April 2nd.

“I want to make it categorically clear that I will step down from office on the 2nd of April, as I have previously made clear. My departure date is absolutely firm,” he posted on the social media platform, X.

But it seems very few Senegalese are convinced by his repeated assurances.

Opponents insist that the elections must be held before April 2.

Some of these people say there can be no room to even consider the possibility of the president staying for even a second longer, after April 2. This group of people believe this is the intention of Mr Sall.

According to the Senegalese constitution, in a situation like this, the National Assembly President takes over as interim president.

Popular mathematician and politician, Professor Mary Teuw Niane, who served as Minister of Higher Education under Sall in the early days of his term, said that the national dialogue was part of a grand scheme designed to bypass the Constitutional Council and extend his stay in office.

Read: Senegal constitutional council overturns vote delay

The Council was categorical in its initial ruling ordering Sall to step down before the expiry of his term and come up with a date for the election in consultation with competent authorities.

But Prof Niane believes that the president intends to use the Council to extend his stay in office to preside over the election. He is one of many people who didn’t even see the need for the dialogue to propose a date for the election.

And this view is supported by a member of the dialogue committee, who was quoted shortly before details of its outcome were made official by the presidency, saying that if the decision goes to the Council, it is likely to extend the president’s term to enable him oversee the elections.

Another source of controversy is move by the government to enact an amnesty package meant to protect members of the Sall administration against prosecution for possible crimes committed within his tenure.

During the launch of the dialogue, the president said the amnesty was targeted at hundreds of people arrested for their involvement in protests over the last few years, some of which have been deadly.