In Senegal, President Macky Sall remains silent despite the violence

This is the great absence of this tumultuous sequence

In Senegal, President Macky Sall remains silent despite the violence

This is the great absence of this tumultuous sequence. While Senegal has been under tension since the sentencing of opponent Ousmane Sonko to two years in prison for "corruption of youth" on Thursday June 1, President Macky Sall remains silent. No solemn speech to deplore the sixteen civilians killed in the clashes between the police and the supporters of the opponent, no press release from the presidency. The verdict should make Ousmane Sonko ineligible for the February 2024 presidential election.

“Faced with such a human toll, this silence is inexplicable, deplores the opponent Déthié Fall, member of the Yewwi Askan Wi coalition, close to Ousmane Sonko, who is calling for the resignation of the head of state. His regime uses unprecedented violence against demonstrators who no longer want him. He needs to speak up,” he demands, relying on videos documenting a heavy-handed crackdown by law enforcement.

Since the end of the trial, the Minister of Tourism, Mame Mbaye Niang, his interior colleague, Félix Antoine Diome, and representatives of the national police have taken it in turns to deny any disproportionate use of force by the security services and blame the recent unrest on "occult forces" and an "alien presence". For the majority, the current tensions do not illustrate hostility against Macky Sall suspected of wanting to run for a third term, a rumor that he refuses to confirm or deny.

"There is no political crisis or popular uprising against the regime," insists a presidential majority executive. “The president therefore has no reason to comment on the latest events. Foreign elements supported by Pastef [Ousmane Sonko's party] are trying to destabilize our democracy. But the situation is under control. Macky Sall will speak if the situation calls for it, ”he assures.

political weapon

Already in March 2021, when the country was inflamed following the arrest of Ousmane Sonko – fourteen people had been killed in clashes with the police – the presidential word was long overdue. "It took the insistence of religious mediators for him to finally speak," reports Gilles Yabi, founder of the Dakar-based Wathi think tank. Macky Sall maintains a similar posture. He wants to give the impression of being serene despite the gravity of the situation. He is also betting that the state apparatus and the security forces will contain the crisis. No doubt he gauges the evolution of the situation before possibly speaking. »

The only sign of a possible feverishness of power: at the last minute, Macky Sall canceled his visit to the Africa CEO Forum which was held on June 5 and 6 in Abidjan. Will he travel next week to kyiv and then to Moscow where a delegation of African presidents intends to mediate?

For months, the Senegalese president's strategy of silence seems to have been cleverly used as a political weapon. He, who had promised to leave power after two terms, maintains doubts about his ambitions for the 2024 presidential election. To those who demand clarification, he responds with a nebulous "neither yes nor no" and lets his entourage express themselves. in its place. Executives of his party and ministers instill the idea of ​​​​the legality of a third term, yet deemed unconstitutional by many jurists and by the opposition.

“If the Head of State is silent, it is also to show his resentment towards those who express their refusal of a possible third term. He thus manifests a form of suppressed anger towards his detractors. It is a mistake because it reinforces the image of authoritarian president that the latter stick to him, "said Alioune Tine, president of the think tank Afrikajom Center.

The one his detractors describe as a hyperpresident therefore expresses himself according to his rhythm and his agenda. Do you see him as authoritarian and unwilling to compromise? He responded by establishing a day dedicated to national dialogue with his opponents. This year, the meeting opened on May 31, the day before the end of Ousmane Sonko's trial.

While his rival refused to participate in this event, Macky Sall insisted on recalling that he was the "master of the clocks". And replied scathingly to those who urge him to speak about his wish for a possible new mandate: "If you want a mandate, just ask me. If it pleases me, I can yield without problem, but you must ask me with due courtesy. »