DAKAR, Feb 15 – Senegal’s government has banned an opposition march planned for the centre of Dakar to protest against President Abdoulaye Wade’s bid to run for a third term in February polls.
Interior Minister Ousmane Ngom told the opposition in a statement received by AFP: “I inform you that the demonstrations you plan cannot happen at the foreseen date and place.”
In the message to leaders of the June 23 Movement (M23) the minister warned: “The administration will take all its responsibilities to ensure the safety of people and property.”
M23, which groups political opponents and civil organisations, had said on Tuesday it would hold a major march to Independence Square, in the heart of the capital near the presidential palace.
Before the ban was announced, M23 coordinator Alioune Tine declared: “We are going to hold our march tomorrow, nobody can stop us. We condemn the Senegalese administration’s biased attitude. At this rate, it will end up being responsible for violence.”
Police on Tuesday had blocked youths from settling in another square in Dakar where they planned a permanent sit-in.
Scores of police were deployed on and around Obelisk Square, preventing members of rapper-led youth movement “Fed Up” from gathering for their protest.
“All arrangements were made, the prefect (of Dakar) was informed, but when we arrived the police prevented us from accessing the square. We don’t understand,” said Ousmane Ndiaye, a spokesman for the organisers.
Two founding members of the movement, the rappers Simon and Kilifeu, briefly appeared at the end of the afternoon to announce the sit-in was being cancelled and a few dozen youths hanging around the square dispersed.
The sandy palm-fringed square has been the scene of protests in recent weeks against Wade’s candidacy in the February 26 polls, a move the opposition says is unconstitutional as he has already served two terms as president.
Wade, 85, argues that changes to the constitution in 2008 mean he can serve two more mandates. The validation of his candidacy by the highest court on January 27 sparked deadly riots, leaving four dead.
Despite national anger and criticism from abroad, Wade has remained defiant, campaigning energetically throughout the country and promising development and ambitious programmes.
M23, which initially fiercely protested Wade’s candidacy, declaring themselves united in unseating him, seems to have run out of steam amid individual vote lobbying less than two weeks before elections.
Wade is facing 13 opposition candidates, including two of his former prime ministers and the leader of the opposition Socialist Party, Ousmane Tanor Dieng.