SENEGAL: Archbishop Calls for Respect of Constitution as Police and Protesters Clash after President Sall Delays Polls

By Paschal Norbert

DAKAR, FEBRUARY 6, 2024 (CISA)- Most Rev Benjamin Ndiaye, the Catholic Archbishop of Dakar has called for the respect of the constitution and for the country’s leaders to avoid circumventing set regulations in the wake of the deepening political crisis in the country.

“What matters most to me is that Senegal lives according to its constitution. That’s essential!” The archbishop said on February 4, a day after President Macky Sall unilaterally announced an indefinite postponement of the presidential election, originally scheduled for February 25, 2024.

“Senegalese must avoid the technique of circumvention. When there is a regulation, it is to be followed, not bypassed. When the regulation is respected, we can move forward,” he stated.

The postponement of the election has been received with wide criticism from the opposition who have termed the move as a ‘constitutional coup’ and has triggered violent protests witnessed in the capital Dakar.

The February 3 announcement by President Sall delaying the elections has thrown the West African country once viewed as a strong democracy into a constitutional crisis. President Sall who has already served two terms as president and was set to retire on April 2, is accused of trying to force his way into staying in power even after repeatedly stating that he won’t contest in the said elections.

Sall who cited his decision to delay the elections as occasioned by “a dispute between the National Assembly and the Constitutional Council, openly conflicting over and the case of two judges accused for alleged corruption.”

He claimed that the decision was to avert a repeat crisis in Senegal after the violent unrest that broke out in March 2021 and June 2023, which resulted in dozens of deaths and hundreds of arrests.

However, according to Archbishop Ndiaye, the peace that the country needs does not come from circumventing the laws of the land but through “truth in words and actions,” and respect for institutional bodies.

“Institutions must be respectable and respected in their missions so that we can move forward together,” he said, reminding citizens that “our concern must be what we can say or do today that complies with the law and can build the nation, society, and not individual interests.”

According to Dr Rama Sally Dieng, Lecturer in African Studies and International Development at the University of Edinburgh “Under Macky Sall, we’ve seen people losing their lives, police brutality, internet restriction, and on Saturday the President using the fallacious crisis narrative on Wade’s dual nationality & supposed corruption of judges to postpone the election”

On Monday night, February 5, and in an unprecedented move that is further deepening the crisis in the country, Senegal’s parliament voted to delay the presidential election to December 15 in a chaotic vote that took place after opposition lawmakers were forcibly removed from the chambers by police as they debated President Macky Sall’s earlier decision to delay the crucial vote.

105 MPs in the 165-seat assembly voted in favour of the bill, which delayed the election and kept President Macky Sall in office until his successor was installed.

In a statement on February 4, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC) Moussa Faki Mahamat encouraged “all political and social forces to resolve any political dispute through consultation, understanding and civilized dialogue, in strict compliance with the principles which govern the rule of law of which the country has a deep-rooted historical tradition.”