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The Africa Confidential Blog

  • 29th February 2024

Senegal's succession drama hits regional nerve

Blue Lines

Senegal had been edging back from the brink. But the latest plans put forward by civic, political and religious leaders for its delayed presidential elections to be held on 2 June, with President Macky Sall staying in office until then, threaten to reignite the crisis. Earlier, Sall had pledged to leave office on 2 April when his term expires, as the constitution requires. Opposition activists are understandably suspicious. The 2 June date came from the national dialogue panel set up by Sall. It also said that Karim Wade, Sall's new ally, should be allowed to contest the elections, but it was unclear whether leading oppositionist Ousmane Sonko be given an amnesty to stand.

The stakes are high, both for Senegal and West Africa more broadly. Should the dialogue panel's recommendations not be adopted or fall short of satisfying opposition parties and public opinion, Senegal's institutions will be tested again as passions rise. If the two sides cannot agree a compromise, few think that Ecowas could step in to resolve the crisis.

At an Ecowas summit on 24-25 February, West African leaders lifted economic sanctions on Niger, weeks after the military regimes of Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso announced plans to leave Ecowas for a new Sahelian union. Ecowas received no commitments from the junta in Niamey about a return to civilian rule. And talks about its demand that former President Mohamed Bazoum be released are making slow progress.