SENEGAL IN CRISIS
Victor C. Ariole urges ECOWAS to intervene and save one of their own
Macky Sall a Fula and the fourth president of Senegal after independence since 1960, who took over from Abdoulaye Wade after the successful reigns of Abdou Diouf and the founding President Leopold Sedar Senghor, should not get Senegal to what the South Koreans abhor – the fourth level where the Presidency is now – that is, death level.
Senegal has been the only country in West Africa that has never known military coups even when surrounded by Mauritania, Mali, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, and on its own surrounding the Gambia. This is how British and French colonial masters planned it so as to give a greater leverage to Dawda Jawara in Gambia out of a feud between Wolof and mixed cousins of Mende-Poular/Foula groups which Yahya Jammeh thwarted in a coup in 1994 as Abdou Diouf remained unconcerned as against Leopold Sedar Senghor’s concern in thwarting the earlier coup in 1981. Note that Senghor remains quite tolerant and adaptable, being also tolerated as a Christian leading almost 90% Islamic Senegal, as well as claiming Fula on the maternal side.
Senghor and Diouf managed their transitions very well until Abdoulaye Wade introduced stormy petrel approach to transition. Senegal has remained a model of how to manage the military to understand and respect the rule of civil governance as both Casamace revolt and the tolerance of intermittent neighbouring countries’ military dictatorship – Mauritama, Guinea, Mali, Guinea Bissau and Gambia inscribed in Senegal – has never overwhelmed Senegal. Even as Macky Sall made efforts to get the military to be involved in quelling riots here and there since the main opposition Ousmane Sanko showed interest in the presidency and became the idol of the youth, the military rebuffed him.
Like youthful quest for new order that has caused coups d’état in Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, Senegal is facing the same challenge now. For Mali, it started with its then civilian President, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, disrespecting the pact it entered into with the group headed by Imam Mohmoud Dicko, and as well making the constitutional court a caricature of itself by not respecting its independence just as Macky Sall is doing now in Senegal as both the National Assembly and the constitutional court are made to kowtow to the President, mostly by framing charges against some of them.
News filtering in from Jeune Africa’s analysis is that Abdoulaye Wade’s son Karim Wade who is on exile in Qatar is organising his comeback to power by using some members of the Senegal Parliament to support the postponement of the election so as to accommodate his candidature; latching at Macky Sall’s interest in having Khalifa Sall fully back in the contest after expiration of his period of ban.
Karim Wade is the son of Abdoulaye Wade the third president of Senegal whose tenure ended in a chaotic transition that ushered in the presidency of Macky Sall. Karim Wade is seen as corrupt after serving as the Mayor of Dakar and facing conviction on embezzlement as a Minister under Macky Sall. He had been sentenced as well as Khalifa Sall before and both of them – Karim and Khalifa – want to be candidates in the election that ought to produce new president in April 2024. A great dilemma for both Macky Sall and Senegal people as ex-convicts seem to be the preferred choice as against Ousmane Sonko, the youth’s choice.
Like France like Senegal, seven-year tenure was the initial constitutional provision till it was changed to 5-year term and Macky Sall’s predecessor Abddoulaye Wade was the last to enjoy the 7-year term. It seems Macky Sall wants to return to that or in the alternative let Khalifa Sall or Karim Wade to be, instead of the popular choice of the youth – Ousmane Sonko. Beyond being the most youthful among the candidates, Sonko is also the most devout Muslim among them.
What is brewing in Senegal is like the duel between the Peulh/Fula and the Mende/Mandigo groups in Guinea; both are remote great cousins of the Fula. The Mendes are divided as some of them are siding Macky Sall to outshine the Sonko/ Mende group. Sonko is from Cassamace, a troubled zone in Senegal. Sonko is currently in jail and all is being done to get him out of it through “La Cour de Cassation”; a superior court, though Macky Sall is not favourable to that. Here is where ECOWAS must intervene for fair play towards the release of Sonko.
ECOWAS should quickly come in before it turns to political conflagration as Mauritania that has opted out of ECOWAS could be a base to destabilize Senegal as it is the same Senegal who stood as a hedge against Mauritania with the support of ECOWAS when the Moors/Dark Arabs the leading minority in Mauritania declared blacks and the Fula/Pulars among them slaves to be expelled in Mauritania. Some fled to Senegal and Mali. One of them a petroleum chemist Niang Modiane had to weep and declared, “It is simply a question of the colour of a man’s skin as the minority, leading in Mauritania are moving more and more toward Arabisation of Mauritania”. Since 1989 that process has not relented and Macky Sall should not give the Arabs or the Mauritanian Arabs the leeway to destabilise Senegal and furthermore, ECOWAS.
Sonko is to Senegal what Imam Mahmoud Dicko is to Mali though they are just far remote cousins, – Mandigo/Fula like former deposed President of Guinea Alpha Conde expressed in relation to Ganduje or Embalo of Guinea Bissau expresses in relation to Buhari – they feel both Mali and Senegal should be liberated from moral debauchery, and they term it progressive Islam. While they are not so much so arabised, they are both not in full control of their followers whose penchants for fundamentalism are not immediately pronounced, but are waiting to be manifested in future; and that is what most conservative elite in all the troubled countries of west Africa are afraid of.
Somehow ECOWAS should be made to wake up to its responsibility of true economic integration so as to arrest the crowd and sheepish drive of ECOWAS youths who are being used for insurrections that have no future benefit for the entire region. Let there be ONE COMMON BORDER NOW!
Professor of French and Francophone Studies,
University of Lagos