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Senegalese musician N'Dour submits presidential bid

Senegalese musician Youssou N'Dour officially submitted his candidacy to the Constitutional Council on Wednesday to compete in a February 26 presidential election. The council will unveil its list of approved candidates on Friday.


AFP - Senegal's opposition on Wednesday called for the nation to defy a ban on protests, heightening tensions ahead of a ruling on whether President Abdoulaye Wade can seek a disputed third term.

The call came as music icon Youssou Ndour, the country's most famous export, became the latest candidate to submit his candidacy to the Constitutional Council for the February 26 presidential election.

The five-judge body, which has the final say on constitutional matters, will on Friday unveil the list of approved contenders, setting the nation on edge as it waits to hear if Wade's controversial bid will go through.

Interior Minister Ousmane Ngom on Tuesday announced a five-day ban from Thursday on all protests to prevent any violence over the council decision and "preserve peace and serenity".

"We don't want any pressure on the members of the Constitutional Council and those taking part in the decision," he said.

But the June 23 Movement (M23) comprising main opposition leaders and civil society groups, decried the move as a "violation of civil liberties" and called on the nation to join an "active resistance" against the ban.

"The minister's ban on protests is null and void and of no effect," the leaders said in a joint declaration.

The constitutional row over Wade's bid for another stint in office led to violent riots in June last year -- leading to the creation of M23 -- and clashes between rival parties in December which left one person dead.

Wade was first elected in 2000 for a two-term mandate, and re-elected in 2007 but since the length of presidential terms was changed while he was in office he argues that he is able to run for another stint.

The opposition and civil society fiercely disagree.

Said Djinnit, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's representative in west Africa, urged "all parties to create conditions for a free, fair and peaceful election to reinforce democratic gains, stability and prosperity".

Djinnit met Wade on Wednesday, saying in a statement he had welcomed "Senegal's attachment to democratic values and respect for the rule of law".

Candidates have until Thursday to register with the Constitutional Council for the vote.

Among the main contenders are three of Wade's former prime ministers Moustapha Niasse, Idrissa Seck and Macky Sall.

Also in the race is Ousmane Tanor Dieng, leader of the main opposition Socialist Party which was in government for 40 years until Wade took over in 2000.

The most famous name in the running is Youssou Ndour, who has emerged a fierce critic of Wade and announced earlier this month he had given up music for politics.

"I think I will create a surprise, I think there is a quiet change happening, people will vote Youssou Ndour," the 52-year old singer told AFP in an interview earlier this month.

"I don't even consider Wade a candidate, because if we stay within the framework of the constitution, he does not have the right," Ndour said.

Senegal has long been seen as a good example of democracy in Africa, with previous leaders Leopold Sedar Senghor and Abdou Diouf peacefully handing over power, even though both served several terms under a previous constitution.

Wade, a veteran opposition who dislodged the Socialist Party after 40 years of rule in 2000 elections on his fifth shot at the presidency, has grown increasingly unpopular as he attempts to cling to power.

While welcomed with hope and elation, his regime has battled criticism of corruption, nepotism and financial scandals, and he has been accused of trying to groom his son Karim Wade to fill his shoes.

US deputy assistant secretary of state for African affairs, William Fitzgerald, said Monday that Wade's bid to stay in office was "regrettable" and he should retire "to protect and support a good democratic transition in Senegal in calm and security".

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