Preserving Senegal’s Democratic Promise: A Call for Accountability, Transparency, and Renewed Commitment

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Senegal's President Macky Sall [File: Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters]

By Modou Nyang, Tacoma, Washington State, USA

Senegal currently faces political uncertainty as a result of President Macky Sall’s controversial decision to postpone the eagerly awaited February 2024 Presidential elections to December 2024. This unexpected shift has raised concerns among Senegalese citizens, who worry about the potential extension of the President’s term. Such an extension would contravene the constitutionally mandated two-term limit, prompting questions about the integrity of Senegal’s democratic processes.

President Sall’s decision marks a departure from Senegal’s historical commitment to democratic principles, causing unease among the populace. Over the past 12 years under Sall’s leadership, Senegal has experienced a gradual erosion of democratic values, giving way to practices that lean towards dictatorship.

The timing of President Sall’s announcement, just the night before the campaign was set to commence, has placed successful candidates in a precarious position, having already met the conditions set by the constitutional council overseeing the election. This has fueled skepticism about the President’s genuine commitment to the integrity of Senegal’s elections, especially considering accusations against his Prime Minister for allegedly influencing the Election Council to deny presidential aspirant Karim Wadda, the son of the former President, a fair chance.

The ongoing dispute between political factions and the constitutional court serves as a stark reminder of the vulnerability of Senegal’s democracy. Any interference in the unrestricted ability of the people to express their will through the ballot box undermines the fundamental principles of democracy that the nation holds dear.

The erosion of confidence in President Sall’s leadership is palpable, manifesting through actions such as the imprisonment of perceived opponents, which signals a disregard for political pluralism and democratic values. The use of state power to suppress political adversaries’ stifles dissent, creating an environment of fear that inhibits open political discourse.

Equally troubling is the deployment of force to quash parliamentary members challenging the President’s motions in the national assembly, unveiling a broader issue in democratic governance. The parliamentary arena, designed as a platform for diverse perspectives, appears to be under undue pressure and coercion.

This loss of confidence extends beyond national borders, resonating among Senegalese communities abroad and potentially diminishing their sense of connection and pride in their homeland. To rebuild this confidence, addressing concerns, fostering open dialogue, and demonstrating a commitment to upholding democratic values is imperative.

As a vigilant Pan-African hailing from The Gambia, it is imperative to critically examine the motivations behind President Sall’s decision. The pursuit of an additional year in office must not sidestep accountability, and the disqualification of candidates based on eligibility criteria should adhere to principles of impartiality and transparency. President Sall, in his capacity as the outgoing President, bears the primary responsibility of guaranteeing the seamless conduct of a free and fair election process, a duty he has regrettably neglected

In the face of these challenges, the Senegalese people must demand accountability and transparency from their leaders. A year-long extension should provide President Sall with an opportunity to showcase a renewed commitment to the democratic process.

To exhibit statesmanship and bolster confidence in the electoral process, President Sall should voluntarily step down at the end of his term. Establishing a caretaker government becomes imperative, consisting of individuals with unquestionable integrity and without affiliations with aspiring candidates.

The proposed interim arrangement should extend for 6 to 9 months, providing ample time to conduct comprehensive preparations for a free and fair election. The caretaker government’s mandate would address systemic issues compromising previous electoral processes, enhance transparency, and foster an environment conducive to open political discourse.

Crucially, the caretaker government would organize the upcoming elections, ensuring the legitimacy and credibility of the electoral process. Facilitating a smooth transition from the outgoing administration to the newly elected leadership is essential, reinforcing democratic values and fostering political trust.

Senegal’s democracy stands at a crossroads, and its citizens and leaders are entrusted with the responsibility of choosing the path leading to a brighter, more democratic future. Acting decisively is crucial to preserving the democratic promise that Senegal has held dear for so long.

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