On February 26, the voters of Senegal will elect their next president. The country has long been the stalwart of democracy and stability in West Africa. But this changed dramatically several years ago when incumbent President Abdoulaye Wade—85 years old and in power since 2000—decided to stand for another term to pave the way for a family dynasty by installing his son, Karim Wade, as his successor.
Many members of the opposition had hoped that Wade would leave office voluntarily. After all, he himself oversaw the introduction of presidential term limits, which were added to the constitution in 2008, and pledged to stay out of this year’s race.
These expectations turned into anger when Wade backtracked on his promise with the words “Ma waxoon waxeet” (“I said it, I can take it back” in Wolof) in 2009. The Senegalese supreme court—whose members are appointed by the president—supported Wade’s interpretation that the amendment could not be enacted retroactively and that he should hence be entitled to stand for two more seven-year terms in office. On January 27 the court officially greenlightedWade’s candidacy, while blocking several other candidates—among them the internationally famous singer Youssou N’Dour—from running. Obviously in anticipation of this ruling, protests were banned in the days around the court hearing. […]