Senegal police fire tear gas to break up ex-president's rally

Dakar (AFP) –


Senegalese security forces halted a protest called by former leader Abdoulaye Wade by blocking roads and firing tear gas at his supporters on Tuesday, provoking a tirade against current President Macky Sall from the 91-year-old Wade.

Security forces in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, tear-gassed opposition activists who tried to protest ahead of Sunday's legislative elections in a square close to the presidential palace, declared off-limits by the authorities.

"The march didn't happen. The police blocked the way," Wade told journalists, speaking in the local Wolof language.

"What we are doing is in the interest of the country. We take our responsibility so that people vote and make Macky Sall -- who has destroyed Senegal -- leave," he added.

Wade, who led Senegal from 2000 to 2012 and now heads up an opposition list for Sunday's legislative election, called the demonstration himself.

Some activists who tried to reach the city's Place de l'Independance (Independence Square) by side streets were tear-gassed and an AFP journalist saw at least six arrested.

Adding he was "proud" to be 91 and still on the campaign trail, Wade assured he was not seeking to become president for a third term, following an abortive attempt to do just that in 2012's presidential election.

Wade was pressing the authorities to issue electoral cards to electors still waiting to receive them who may otherwise not be able to vote.

The former president only returned to Senegal earlier this month after two years away, in order to campaign.

The demonstration was organised in a "restricted zone", the governor of Dakar, Serigne Babacar Kane, had told AFP earlier, citing a Wade-era decree against political activity in the square.

On Monday, President Sall went to the country's constitutional council to try to relax the voting rules so people without voting cards could use passports or other forms of identification to vote.

But that initiative was rejected by several political parties and opposition coalitions.