Senegal's President Macky Sall speaks at a news conference on the second day of a European Union (EU) African Union (AU) summit at The European Council Building in Brussels, Belgium February 18, 2022. John Thys/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

TAT Commentary by Alf Soninke

If one needs any confirmation that President Macky Sall is the bane of democracy in Senegal, as recently asserted by this writer elsewhere, then the following post acquired from a Whatsapp source (at 12:09 GMT on 19/06/2022) if true should be enough confirmation:

“Senegal, Togo and Côte d’Ivoire are the three of the 15 ECOWAS countries which refused to sign last week in Accra (Ghana) an amendment to the protocol of the sub-regional organization on the democracy and governance, informs Dr. Cheikh Tidiane Dièye, one of the leaders of the Senegalese opposition.

“This protocol should in particular impose the limitation of presidential terms to two as well as the impossibility for the Member States to modify the electoral law in the 6 months preceding an election.

“Macky Sall, Alassane Ouattara and Faure Gnassingbé are, therefore, the only three ECOWAS Heads of State who expressed reservations to the amendment which was submitted to the appreciation of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the member countries.”

“Source: http://futureafrique.net/node/14001

06/16/2022

Indeed, the report above if true would confirm what the opposition in Senegal have been claiming all along – that Macky Sall is nursing ambitions to stand for re-election in 2024 when the next presidential election is due in the country.

But for Sall to want to do so would be playing with fire, since we all know what happened when Sall’s predecessor, Abdoulaye Wade, attempted to do so in 2012. And, of course, we all saw how it ended in the electoral humiliation of Wade by a coalition of Senegalese political and civil society leaders and organizations, who helped Macky Sall to replace Wade.

Our point though is that Wade’s attempt in 2012 to prolong his stay in office beyond his constitutionally-mandated two seven-year terms led to what we saw as akin to Senegal’s first mass uprising against a sitting president.

It is clear, therefore, that such dreams by the incumbent are the primary causes of instability in the West African state. Moreover, that Senegal has already fought for and gone through two peaceful democratic transfers of power – from Abdou Diouf to Wade and from Wade to Sall – shows the Senegalese people will definitely not allow Macky Sall to set back their march to build an enviable democratic nation.

Now to solve such instability is the raison d’etre of the ECOWAS protocol on democracy and good governance. And the latest news about Sall and likeminded ECOWAS leaders, if true, is coming at the worst time – at a time when we have seen coups in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso.

In any case, current events in Senegal show that Macky Sall is a bad example to the young leaders who look up to him as a big brother and are being tutored by him, like presidents Adama Barrow of Gambia, Embalo of Guinea Bissau, George Weah of Liberia and Mada Bio of Sierra Leone.

Of course, we know that Embalo has spoken out publicly in support of the two terms limit. He also decried the attempts to change national constitutions and extend presidential terms as the cause of instability in the countries affected.

And that has not made him popular among his ECOWAS peers.

Moreover, with the ongoing political crises in Bissau – after the first democratic transfer of power from Vaz to Embalo following peaceful elections in Bissau – the reported failed coup attempt; and, current dissolution of the parliament – necessitating an ECOWAS stabilization force.

Also, with the army not getting involved in the country’s latest political crisis, and announced plans to hold legislative elections before the end of the year, one can safely say that it is not likely that Embalo will ever contemplate seeking to stay in office longer than the term limit set in stone in Bissau’s constitution.

What they’ve been through in Liberia and Sierra Leone, and we’ve been through in Gambia under the 22-year dictatorship culminating in the 2016 impasse, means the people in these countries would also not tolerate any attempt to subvert their national constitutions. Which is some consolation to all who believe in constitutionalism.

And talking about constitutional provisions, we want to proffer a solution to the perennial instability, caused by corrupt civilian presidents tampering with the constitution to enable them continue to stay in power.

It is our view that the solution is to provide in our national constitutions for the military to intervene and stop/prevent abuse of office/power by an incumbent.

It is my considered view that the justification is for such a move is what we see happening in Africa, and particularly our own experience during the impasse in 2016 under former President Yahya Jammeh. 

Thus we believe that Gambians have a unique opportunity to show the way to the rest of Africa and beyond. Indeed, as a sovereign people, though a small nation, we have a chance to be a paragon to the rest of the civilized world.

We propose that let us all agree to insert in the yet to be adopted 2020 draft Constitution a provision which enables/allows/empowers our military to intervene to maintain/restore good governance.

This kicks in immediately in the event/situation or circumstances where an incumbent – always and everywhere relying on the support of the military establishment to suppress the people from protesting against their abuses – attempts to cling on to power when their mandate expires.

After all, Yahya Jammeh would have relied on military force to cling on to power, and it took the threat of a bigger military force by ECOWAS to make him leave State House and go into exile – which facilitated the transition to our new dawn in Gambia!

It clear, therefore, that without the intervention of a military force greater than his own, Jammeh would have had his way in Gambia – of course, with the threat of continuing civil strife and most likely civil war in this country.

Lesson learned – that the military intervening is the solution to crises caused by leaders who cling to power against the will of their people! It will also be a solution to the threat of military coups, since there will be no need nor excuse for he military to step in as there are already strong institutions and good governance in place in the country.

Remember, it is always the very military the leaders rely on to help them stay in power, and where the constitution empowers that very military to oust leaders who abuse their office, it provides a quick fix to the perennial problem we face in Africa.

There is no doubt that if this were to be the norm in Ecowas, for example, we would not now be living with the instability we have in Togo, Cote d’Ivoire and elsewhere, as well as being confronted with the military coups we have in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso and the attendant instability we are forced to live with in Africa.

The other advantage of such a constitutional provision would be that the military would be assured of its central role in the power dynamics of the state, and would have been accorded the respect and place it rightly deserves and holds vis-a-vis the civilian authorities in the management of the affairs of state.

Let me conclude by stating clearly that I sincerely believe that giving the military the constitutional authority to serve as a check on civilian abuse of power is the way forward. 

And should you ask who then serves as the check on the armed forces, my answer is an armed militia – again based on constitutional authority for the people to bear arms to defend themselves against an oppressive government.

The antecedent is the amendment to the US constitution which allows the US population to own and bear arms to defend themselves against tyrannical rulers, which derived from Americans’ experience under their oppressive British colonial government.

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