February 28, 2024

Sall’s decision to push back the February 25 presidential vote has plunged Senegal into one of its worst crises since independence from France in 1960.

Nigerian President Bola Tinubu is meeting his Senegalese counterpart, Macky Sall, in the capital, Dakar, as a constitutional crisis continues there over the postponement of elections initially scheduled for this month.

Tinubu, who is also chair of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), is in Dakar for a one-day trip days after the bloc’s foreign ministers held emergency talks in Nigeria’s capital Abuja.

Sall’s decision to push back the February 25 presidential vote has plunged Senegal into one of its worst crises since independence from France in 1960.

Protests pitting the youth against security forces have turned increasingly violent in a country long seen as a haven of stability and democracy in West Africa, a region that has recently been roiled by coups and unrest.

ECOWAS has urged Senegal – one of its most stable member states – to return to its election timetable, but critics have already questioned the group’s sway over increasingly defiant member states. The foreign ministers met in Abuja on Thursday, without representatives of the military-led trio – Niger, Burkina Faso, and Mali – which announced withdrawal from the bloc in January. Guinea, also suspended from the bloc for a coup, was also not in attendance.

The turmoil has also brought the almost 50-year-old bloc’s broader role into doubt, especially after its warning of military intervention in Niger last year fizzled out with no sign the country’s toppled president is closer to being restored.

Sall said he postponed the election because of a dispute between parliament and the Constitutional Council over potential candidates barred from running.

He has said he wants to begin a process of “appeasement and reconciliation” and reiterated a commitment not to stand for a third term amid expressions of international concern.

Opposition leaders have denounced the move as a “constitutional coup” and condemned the crackdown on protesters.

Senegal’s parliament backed the move on Monday and voted to keep Sall in office until his successor takes over, which is unlikely before early 2025. His second term had been due to end on April 2.

Campaigners from the Aar Sunu Election group (Protect our Election) have called for protests again on Tuesday.

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