Senegal: The Evil of Macky Sall’s Civilian Coup in Senegal, By Toyin Falola

Senegal does not need Sall. Its people must get rid of him. How many people can he put in prison? How many can he kill? My Senegalese citizens, don’t be afraid of this monste

The momentum has been mounting from the barring of Ousmane Sonko and other opposition figures that have been seen to have garnered many supporters across the nation. Macky Sall’s alleged constructive attitudes have been interpreted as a wish to contest for a constitutionally forbidden third, and this spurred many Senegalese out to the street in protest. More than before, the country is faced with many uncertainties…

The President of Senegal, Macky Sall, has continued with his evil game to perpetuate himself in power. We don’t know whether France is behind it, as we cannot put anything past that colonial monster. Sall is determined to stay in power, with or without support from France. Over a year ago, I saw this coming and used media outlets to warn about it. ECOWAS that flexed its muscle over Niger should now do so again, telling Sall that his decision is a coup.

Bear in mind that Sall once proposed a monarchical form of government based on a delusional argument that kings are preferable to presidents. Sall’s hero is the imbecile President of Ivory Coast, Alassane Ouattara, who has been in power since 2010 after a series of civilian coups. Macky Sall succeeded the power-obsessed Abdoulaye Wade, who also planned, unsuccessfully, to plant himself in power indefinitely. Months ago, Sall destroyed his strongest opponent, Ousmane Sonko, on trumped-up charges of “corrupting the youth.” Sall, since serving as a minister under Wade, has emerged as one of Senegal’s most corrupt politicians, who should be in prison by now. Perhaps he wants to remain as president to avoid prison.

Democracy is in recession in Africa. Sall is affirming what we know. Democracy is the pillar of the modern world, and the temporal unfolding of occurrence has been able to find assistance in the arms of it. There is no doubt that the practice of democracy does not just emphasise the acceptance and representation of the people, but it is evidence that the people are in power and establishing their dominion through designated offices. Democratic practices are tokens of contemporary social contracts that hold the strains of social trust, tolerance, and development. As abstract as the concept may be, it is strong enough to put the foremost nations in ruin and powerful enough to progressively transform those that are lagging.

Unfortunately, African countries, and most especially West African countries, have faced unspeakable challenges, shaking the core of their respective democracies. People often wonder if the countries have bred new forms of democratic practices and question the values attached to them. Political instabilities, election crises, and the disruption of legitimate governments by military coups embattle African nations. From 2021 to 2023, the continent seems to be having a festival of coups, as the surge of military intervention in different nations has put up concerns.

However, amid this and drawing from history, many have had good things to say about the democratic practice in Senegal, especially during the process of democratic transmission of power after elections. Senegal was seen as a model and point of reference. This is not because the people just do not like violence when compared to others; it is that the people love their liberty, and they believe that all things that are their votes are their opportunities to speak up. So, there is an endeavour to desist from electoral violence, as well as encourage the smooth transmission of power. In short, some would say that the country might have gotten it right.

Since 20 August, 1960, when the nation gained independence, the military has never tried to interfere with its democratic progression and has allowed for gradual political cohesion and development in the country. The admiration that is incited by this record is solidified by the cooperation of the citizens, who have subscribed to continuity. Unfortunately, the democratic practice of the nation has received heavy shakes since 2023 from the event that sequentially occurred concerning the supposed date for the 2024 election.

The momentum has been mounting from the barring of Ousmane Sonko and other opposition figures that have been seen to have garnered many supporters across the nation. Macky Sall’s alleged constructive attitudes have been interpreted as a wish to contest for a constitutionally forbidden third, and this spurred many Senegalese out to the street in protest. More than before, the country is faced with many uncertainties, protests, and revolts against the government’s stances and the disposition of the politicians.

While all these could be seen as political antics building up to elections, the worst development of the event happened when the president initially singlehandedly postponed the election that was slated for February indefinitely. In a festive session, the parliament expanded a bill that proposed to move the election dates from August to December, 2024, allowing Sall to remain in office for still unforeseeable terms. The excuse of the president and the MPs that are in his support is that the nation needs time to figure out its political crisis and call for negotiations and national dialogues along the line.

One would wonder whether the justifications and reasons given by the president had any significance enough to alter the conduct of the election. The president had years before this month to call for dialogues when the nation was in turmoil, from agitations to agitations, to settle all differences and dialogues. But cancelling the elections in such a way that would breach the Constitution is the last diplomatic thing to do.

The world has commended the democratic practice of the country, and one of the solid tenets of democracy is the sanctity of the Constitution, which the subscriptions of the people have given strength to. The Constitution states that “elections must be held at least 30 days before the expiration of the term of an incumbent President”. The president ought to leave office in April 2024, and the indefinite postponement of the elections, in fact, till December or whatnot, is a highhanded dereliction of the sanctity of the Constitution. The law has further required that on no occasion should the term of the president be either expanded or shortened, and Sall’s decision is another way of indirectly contradicting the supreme law of the nation. It amounts to a constitutional coup and forceful compelling of unwanted government over the people, with no choice.

Where the constitution that serves as the foundation of all that holds the country together is disrespected and demeaned by the very institutions that should uphold it, precedents have only been set for further and injurious future violations of the Constitution. I am afraid that one might be facing the definite expulsion of the tranquillity of democracy that the Senegalese have been enjoying. Sall’s stalling of the continuous practice of democracy is digging at the roots of the Senegalese society and further inviting anarchy in the next few days.

It has been obvious that the decisions of the president are nothing but either miscalculated policy or political gymnastics for the benefit of the anointed candidates of the ruling party. Surely, the disposition of the people is never in tune with the directions of the president’s policies. The people have taken to the streets again, and it affords some interpretation of the intention of the Presidency. The protests and confrontations have been faced by brutality, shaking the root of social constructs. Right from protests and resistance to the barring of Ousmane Sanko and others, records have shown that protesters have been brutalised, and some have lost their lives. Other protests in 2023 have also not been better. The news has reported almost similar reactions from the Senegalese forces and Police to the protesters who are asking for nothing but the re-enthronement of democratic practices. The people had anticipated 25 February as a date to restate their disposition butthe government has taken up the conviction to stop that at all costs. It was also quite embarrassing to see how many opposition Members of the Parliament were wrestled out of the parliament by the Police for the bill to extend the time of election arbitrarily to be passed without opposition.

One could wonder whether the president is afraid of opposition. Amadou Ba, the incumbent prime minister of the Benno Bokk Yaakaar (BBY) coalition, Sall’s party, is dubbed as the president’s anointed candidate, and it has been alleged that the president has been trying to clear the ground for his easy ascension to power. Many have also stated that the poll does not look nice for Amadou Ba, which makes people to suspect that the postponement, aside from being a possible attempt to stay in office beyond the legally permissible time, is a way to give time to politically adjust the country in favour of Amadou Ba. These assertions are not conveniently logically displaceable, seeing the trend and sequence of events in recent times. Why act differently? The recent history of Senegalese politics has shown the usual change of power from one ruling party to the other without fuss. There was a transition in 2000 and another when Abdou Diouf lost his bid and stepped down. In 2012, Macky Sall also came in through such transitioning.

To then have an apprehension towards transmitting power to other political blocs in the country would not just be a mockery of the system that has produced the president but will also be detrimental to the supposed candidate. It is further a careless endeavour, as it is possible to encourage a deeper crisis that could be beyond the control of the government and invite incidents like coups that the Senegalese detest. This is a deep reminder to the president that power does not belong to him or the Presidency; it belongs to the people. And when the people are ready and demanding that it be passed to someone else, it would be a great act of disservice to hinder such desires. Mr President’s actions are contrary to the will of the people, and it is important for him to quickly seek a redress before he loses the confidence of the people.

It is also important that the international communities, especially ECOWAS, take this development very seriously. The bodies have not been having definitive impacts on political degenerations that have been predominant in Africa. ECOWAS and the African Union must stop being the toothless dogs that the people presume them to be and take an impactful step in saving the face and life of African democracy. ECOWAS leaders must call President Sall to order to restore the democratic confidence of the Senegalese.

I also wish to admonish the judiciary to take a neutral ground in this budding crisis and serve as the true and last hope of the people to check the excesses of both the presidency and the parliament. If the parliament can arbitrarily make laws that are inconsistent with the Constitution, then there should be no need for valuing law and order. The duty then drops on the lapse of the judiciary to ensure that this constitutional coup and democratic on-slaughter is short-lived.

Senegal does not need Sall. Its people must get rid of him. How many people can he put in prison? How many can he kill? My Senegalese citizens, don’t be afraid of this monster.

Toyin Falola, a professor of History, University Distinguished Teaching Professor, and Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at The University of Texas at Austin, is the Bobapitan of Ibadanland.

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