Former Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade is expected to return home Wednesday from France, where he has been living since his 2012 electoral defeat by current President Macky Sall.
But, his Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS) said the government has ordered a shutdown of the Leopold Senghor International Airport from 2 to 8pm local time and barred Wade’s supporters from holding a welcome rally.
Amadou Sall, former justice minister and communications director during former Wade’s administration, said the government is afraid because Wade is more popular than Sall.
“President Wade is supposed to be back home Wednesday in the afternoon, and our party and the Senegalese citizens are ready to be there with him.
But, we have a problem because the government has decided to close Dakar Airport in the afternoon between 2 and 8 o’clock pm” he said.
Sall also said the government has banned Wade supporters from holding a welcome rally in Dakar for the former president.
“We decided that when President Wade arrives, we will organize a popular meeting in Dakar because President Wade is very popular and the population decided to go in the street to welcome him. But, the government has not authorized this meeting and they decided that parking in all avenues is forbidden,” Sall said.
He said the former president’s supporters have a right to organize a welcome rally without obtaining permission from the police.
“If someone is coming, his supporters have the right to go to the airport just to say hello and welcome. And they cannot forbid that because we have the right to do that,” Sall said.
Sall said the government prohibited Wade supporters from holding a welcome rally because the former president is more popular than the current leader.
“They fear Abdoulaye Wade because President Macky Sall is very unpopular. His government is unpopular, his prime minister is very unpopular, and Senegalese citizens are unsatisfied,” Sall said.
Abou Abel Thiam, a presidential spokesman, denied the government plans to shut down the airport.
He said Wade, as a former president, enjoys certain privileges that the government is ready to make available at his request. But, Thiam said the government will not tolerate Wade returning home both as a former president and as a “troublemaker.”
“The former president, Mr. Abdoulaye Wade, has a status of a former president. Tomorrow, if he comes in this case with his status as former president, we will open the airport and give him a car to leave him to go wherever he wants. But, what we don’t accept is for him to come with his status of a former president and to want to make trouble in the city,” he said.
Thiam said Wade has told a French newspaper that he was returning home for political reasons.
Wade is returning home at a time when the new government has accused his son, Karim Wade, of amassing millions of dollars in alleged ill-gotten wealth when he served in his father’s government.
The elder Wade has reportedly said the government was engaged in a witch hunt against his son.
But, Thiam said the justice system simply wants the younger Wade to explain how he acquired such huge sums of money.
“What is true is that his son, Mr. Karim Wade, was a former minister in his father’s government. He had a big responsibility in the government of his father. The justice system wants him to explain where he got the big money that has been found in his bank account,” Thiam said.