Senegal bans city centre protests before anti-Wade march


Senegal banned political rallies in the centre of the capital Dakar two days before a planned march to protest against 85-year-old President Abdoulaye Wade seeking a new term in February 2012 elections.

Observers feared the move would inflame tensions between Wade’s critics and his supporters, whose own rally in a suburb of the capital will not be covered by the ban.

The Interior Ministry said the ban was needed on grounds of security. It comes days after Wade vowed that authorities would deal firmly with any repeat of street protests last month which raised fears of unrest in the usually peaceful West African state, Reuters reports.
“It shows that attitudes in the government are hardening towards anti-government protests,” said one Dakar-based diplomat. “By preventing these gatherings, he is going to build up pressure and it will have to be released somehow.”

Wade has said he will stand for another seven-year term despite widespread concerns over his age and assertions by opponents that he is constitutionally barred from a third term.

Wade backed down on planned reforms to electoral rules, including a clause giving victory to any candidate with over 25 percent of the vote, after June 23 street protests that sparked violent clashes between police and rioters in Dakar.

While Senegal is far from seeing any movement close to the “Arab Spring” uprisings that ousted rulers in Tunisia and Egypt, the success of the protests have emboldened Wade’s opponents.

Organisers of the anti-Wade protest plan to meet to discuss their reaction to the ban later on Thursday.

Wade’s supporters say they aim to muster 500,000 people for their march, outnumbering the protesters, they say.