Dakar – Interior Minister Ousmane Ngom on Wednesday banned political protests in downtown Dakar, citing security reasons, just days before a mass rally planned to protest against Senegal’s embattled regime.
“For reasons of security, protests of a political nature are banned” in the downtown area, Ngom said in a ministerial decree, naming several government buildings and Independence Square where the Saturday protest is planned.
Opposition and civil society organisations calling themselves the “June 23 Movement” have called the rally to protest against President Abdoulaye Wade’s regime, demanding he withdraws his controversial bid for a third term in office.
With their catchphrase “don’t touch my constitution”, the movement formed in the wake of the most violent protests seen under Wade’s regime on June 23, against proposed changes to election laws.
Over 100 people were injured in the unprecedented riots, forcing Wade to shelve the law changes which would have added a vice president to the presidential ticket and dropped the winning threshold for a first-round victory to 25% of votes from the current 50%.
Days later government buildings were torched in a spontaneous protest against crippling power cuts, which sometimes last for days in the west African nation.
Wade was pilloried by his critics for being out of touch with his people in an address to the nation on July 14, in which he pushed ahead with his candidature and proposed an early election, saying “there will be no winner but me”
The main opposition has called for the 85-year-old leader’s resignation, and accused him of lining up his son Karim Wade, 42, to succeed him.
Wade was first elected for a seven-year term in 2000 and again in 2007 for a five-year mandate after a constitutional change shortened the presidential term. Constitutionally a president can only serve two mandates.
However, Wade’s supporters say this provision only came into play after the change in the law and so he is entitled to another term in office.