Senegal steps back from the brink

In a highly anticipated speech, Senegalese President Macky Sall announced Monday that he won’t seek a controversial third term in February’s elections.

Why the controversy?

  • ⛔ Senegal’s constitution says third terms aren’t even allowed, but
  • 📜 A recent constitutional revision made each term shorter, and
  • ⏲️ Sall’s supporters were arguing that this reset the clock for him

Sall himself was keeping pretty coy there for a while, dropping a “ni oui, ni non” (neither yes nor no) when asked if he’d run again. So when his fiercest critic was barred from office this year, it seemed something was up.

Intrigue’s take: Now that the president has ruled out a third term, there’s some relief that Senegal’s institutions will be spared this particular test.

But this saga is a reminder that democracies don’t rest on a constitution alone, nor are they defended by institutions alone. Much still comes down to people; whether it’s the thousands of recent protestors, or the president’s acknowledgement on Monday that Senegal is more than me.”

Also worth noting:

  • Courts in Senegal have this year convicted firebrand opposition figure Ousmane Sonko of libel and corrupting the youth, effectively barring him from running for president next year.
  • Protests broke out after Sonko’s convictions, leading to several deaths.
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