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Africa

Opposition vows to press on with anti-Wade protests

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2012-02-01

Opposition protesters vowed to continue challenging President Abdoulaye Wade's bid for a third term in office, after another anti-Wade rally on Tuesday night led to street clashes between youth and police.

AFP - Senegal's opposition vowed Wednesday to press on with its campaign against President Abdoulaye Wade's ambitions for a third term, as the government accused them of failing the test of mobilisation.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed concern about rising tension in one of Africa's most stable countries, as yet another opposition rally descended into riots Tuesday night, claiming a fourth life in a week.

The June 23 Movement (M23) opposition movement on Tuesday night gathered some 10,000 protesters, witnesses say, to rally against the 85-year-old leader's controversial attempt to seek a third term in February 26 polls.

The constitutional council on Monday dismissed all final appeals against Wade's candidacy, leaving no recourse for the opposition but pressure from the streets.

While thousands turned out to demand Wade step aside, presidential spokesman Serigne Mbacke Ndiaye dismissed the protest as a failure and evidence that Wade commanded wide support.

"If 13 candidates supported by nearly 70 political parties and civil society organisations only managed to mobilise 2,500 people, it proves Abdoulaye Wade holds a majority in Senegal," he said in a statement.

Dakar was bustling Wednesday morning as life went on as usual following the rally which turned violent as youths lobbed stones at riot police, who riposted with teargas.

Protesters later burnt tyres and engaged in running battles with police in side streets.

Witnesses and officials said a 32-year-old student in the crowd died after being run over, but police deny reports it was their vehicle.

However M23 spokesman Abdoul Aziz Diop said the rally was a success.

"Our capacity for mobilisation has not been contradicted, the movement achieved maximum mobilisation."

Diop said a "crisis committee will meet today to evaluate the next step after the protest. But from now on we will take into account the repression by the government and develop a strategy against it."

Alioune Tine, a prominent rights activist and member of M23 said a second person was killed during the dispersion of the riot, however this has not been be confirmed by authorities.

A ruling by Senegal's constitutional council that Wade was legally allowed to seek another term has sparked fury among opponents who accuse him of fiddling with the law to remain in power.

Wade says a constitutional amendment to presidential terms does not apply retroactively, which means the two terms he has already served cannot be taken into account and theoretically allows him to serve two more seven-year terms from 2012.

A policeman was killed in riots last Friday when the council gave Wade the green light, and another two people were killed in protests on Sunday in the northern city of Podor.

Washington has urged Wade, in office since 2000, to allow power to pass "to the next generation" while observers have condemned the mounting violence in one of Africa's most vibrant democracies.

On Wednesday a statement from Ban Ki-moon's office said: "The Secretary-General is concerned about the upsurge of tensions in Senegal ahead of the presidential election scheduled for 26 February 2012."

He urged "all political parties and national stakeholders to refrain from violence in the pursuit of their objectives and to pursue peaceful means to resolve all electoral grievances."

The opposition has vowed to bar Wade from running and has called for popular resistance against what they term a "constitutional coup d'etat."

Moustapha Niasse, one of the opposition candidates, said Tuesday that the June 23 Movement "has taken a formal decision not to boycott the upcoming presidential election ... because that would please Wade and his system."

Besides Wade, the council approved 13 other candidates to run in the election -- including three former prime ministers and main opposition leader Ousmane Tanor Dieng.

Date created : 2012-02-01

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