Senegal: Support Term Limit Protests


We should support the protesters in Senegal who are objecting to the decision by President Abdoulaye Wade to run for a third term, since the Senegalese Constitution limits their leaders to no more than two terms in office.

Senegal’s road to democracy is a long one. For roughly 500 years, the colonial Europeans denied black Africans self-rule. The Portuguese were the first to take Senegalese treasure from the coast, beginning in the 1440s. After the Netherlands built a port at Goree Island in 1588, the French constructed a trading post at St. Louis in 1659, and seized Goree from the Dutch. Following an 1825 conflict, the French moved inland in 1854, and by 1893, had suppressed all resistance. French West Africa ruled this part of the African continent from 1895, through independence in 1960.

The removal of French colonialism was a major step towards democracy. Unfortunately, the initial version of the Senegalese Constitution contained no term-limits, and as a result, their first president, Leopold Senghor, served for 20 years, through 1980, and their second, Abdou Diouf, ruled for 19 years through 2000, despite protests in the 1988 and 1993 campaigns.

The current president, Mr. Wade, was first elected in 1999. Shortly afterward, the Senegalese changed their constitution, by adopting a two-term limit in 2001. Although Wade was re-elected to a second term in 2007, he announced he would run again in 2012, sparking protests, because this would be a third term. Wade, 85, further aggravated pro-democracy protesters, by trying to create a family dynasty, by making his son Vice-President.

Wade took the issue before the Senegalese Supreme Court, where a friendly judiciary ruled his first election did not count, since the term-limit amendment was not implemented until 2001, which was after he had already started serving.

Wade may have won a technical argument in court, but he lost in the eyes of those who seek more, not less, democracy. No one told our first President George Washington to step down after two terms totaling eight years. He did it to set an example of how democratic power should be transferred. President Obama, Sec. of State Clinton, and the American public should now pressure Wade to do the right thing and simply step down. 12 years in office is long enough.

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