With his eyes glued to the television screen, Sérigne has barely started his thiéboudiène. The young man, wearing a harnessed down jacket and thick beard collar, frowns in front of the portrait of Macky Sall, the president of Senegal who asked to postpone the presidential election from February 25, triggering violent demonstrations throughout the country. “We are simple spectators here,” sighs Sérigne, born in Senegal but who lives in the 18th arrondissement in Paris. We have the impression that he wants to serve a third term.
Such a postponement of a presidential election, which takes place by direct universal suffrage, would be a first since 1963. Senegalese deputies began to debate this Monday afternoon a text which plans to postpone it by six months or even for one year, in February 2025. The outgoing head of state, Macky Sall, focuses criticism within the Senegalese diaspora in Paris, even though he has spent twelve years at the head of the country and cannot run again for a third consecutive term. “He wants to continue and he has managed to smoke everyone out,” fears Sérigne. In this small traditional restaurant around the Max Dormoy district, the news is closely followed by customers, even by those who do not have a direct link with Senegal.
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In the streets, dual nationals are divided on the idea of shouting their anger and not exposing themselves too much, for fear of repercussions or to avoid endangering loved ones back home. Some raise their shoulders in a sign of inevitability. While managing a knife negotiation with a customer, Mohammed monitors the situation closely in his tailor shop. The fifty-year-old saw his children present in Senegal called “this morning by the French embassy” to “be careful”. “It’s a complicated story,” continues the seller, with a contagious smile. The president wants to stay, but legally and politically he can't! For me, he will do the six months and he will leave.
In the back room of a sewing workshop, Mohammed, in his late thirties, launched a live broadcast of the debates at the National Assembly, while working. He checks in on his family there, “because when you demonstrate, you get arrested easily.” Like part of Senegalese youth, he would have liked to see the virulent Ousmane Sonko in power. But the latter was declared ineligible by the Constitutional Council, since he has been imprisoned since July. “It’s not normal because he’s good, and I really liked what he said,” he says. We want to fight for young people and he was a good leader.
His namesake tailor does not agree. “There was too much violence in 2021,” continues the fifty-year-old, referring to the dozens of people killed during demonstrations following Sonko’s calls. If he comes to power, what message will be sent for our rule of law? He will no longer have power or legitimacy. And if we push young people too much, the military will expand their influence. And we don’t want to have the same fate as Mali.” Senegal has never experienced a coup d'état, a rarity on the continent which makes it an island of stability in West Africa.
Apart from the candidacy of Ousmane Sonko, several dozen others were rejected by the Constitutional Council and twenty were validated. Another opposition leader was excluded: Karim Wade, minister and son of ex-president Abdoulaye Wade (2000-2012). “He wants to come back, he made the effort to renounce his French nationality to present himself,” believes Mohammed. It seems incomprehensible to me to deny him the right to be a candidate. We need to clarify the situation. » In the street, there are anonymous rumors of “bribes” between the presidency and the Constitutional Council.
A few steps away, a few moments after having had his Sunday meal in a traditional restaurant, Ibrahima takes a seat in his grocery store. He dozes off and his gaze wanders for a few moments. Shaved head, graying beard, the trader is “heartbroken” by the situation and is not even surprised when he learns of the cut in access to mobile internet data in Dakar this Monday morning. “It’s the rule of the strongest. Until now, it was a country that had a healthy democracy, without a coup d’état, but we are heading straight there.”
The fear of a shift beyond the demonstrations cannot be excluded according to him. “If (the postponement) goes through, it’s going to break! The Senegalese are not going to let this happen, there will be deaths for change. This is the case in all revolutions. Very moved, Ibrahima, who arrived in France in 1980, would like “change” because “the same heads have been turning since 1976”. He tries to be optimistic: “His maneuver proves his lack of confidence in his candidate (current Prime Minister Amadou Bâ). Either way, the opposition will pass.”