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Senegal tense as nation awaits ex-president’s return

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Exiled former president Abdoulaye Wade/AFP

Exiled former president Abdoulaye Wade/AFP

DAKAR, Apr 25 – Senegalese security forces were braced Friday for the controversial homecoming of exiled former president Abdoulaye Wade, two years after he lost office in an election marred by violent protests.

Wade, 87, who held power from 2000 to 2012, was expected to land in Dakar in the afternoon, aides said, for his first trip back to the west African nation since he moved to France after a bitter defeat to arch rival and current leader Macky Sall.

His return — a show of support his son Karim, who is in custody on multi million-dollar corruption charges — has been delayed by 48 hours after his flight was grounded in Casablanca on Wednesday.

Wade has accused Sall’s government of “manoeuvring” against him by deliberately witholding permission for him to land in Dakar in an attempt to disperse the supporters who had planned to welcome him on his arrival.

“I understood a long time ago that Macky Sall did not want this day to happen,” he told AFP in the Moroccan capital on Thursday.

Senegal has denied that it was behind the delay, with government spokesman Abdou Latif Coulibaly pointing to last-minute modifications to the flight manifesto which meant new permits were required.

– ‘Heavy with menace’ –

Mayoro Faye, of Wade’s Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS), said supporters would march from the airport to the party headquarters, where the former head-of-state would deliver a speech at a rally due to go ahead despite being banned by the authorities.

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