Senegal Election: Police and Protesters Clash

Protesters in Senegal demand that President Abdoulaye Wade quit his bid for a third term in February 26 elections. Image by Ricci Shryock. Senegal, 2012.

After what began as peaceful protests, crowds were dispersed by tear gas in Dakar’s downtown Tuesday, as opposition forces gathered to continue their demands that Senegal’s President Abdoulaye Wade abandon his run for a third term in Sunday’s presidential elections.

Senegal’s most famous musician, Youssou N’Dour, arrived at the protests to cheering crowds. N’Dour had attempted to run in the presidential race, but the Constitutional Court declared his candidacy invalid in January.

At Tuesday’s rally, mostly youth protesters from the group known as the M23 chanted and sang as police blocked them from entering Dakar’s Place de l’Independence.

The hundreds of demonstrators sang along to a popular song, “Na Dem.” The chorus, in the most widely spoken Senegalese language of Wolof, can be translated into “Go Away, Old Man,” referring to Wade, who is 85 though the validity of his actual age has been questioned this election cycle.

Despite changes to the constitution that Wade himself made during his first term in office that limited the presidency in Senegal to two terms, Wade is aiming for a third term. His government says Wade’s first term did not count because he was elected before the two-term limit was introduced.