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More Protests Over Senegal's Election Process Draw Police Response

  • Jane Labous

Members of the Senegalese community opposed to President Abdoulaye Wade protest in front of Senegal's Consulate in Paris, January 31, 2012.

Members of the Senegalese community opposed to President Abdoulaye Wade protest in front of Senegal's Consulate in Paris, January 31, 2012.

Police fired teargas as thousands of people protest in one of Dakar’s central squares, Place de L’Obelisque. They are calling for President Abdoulaye Wade’s to drop his plan to run for a third term as president of Senegal on February 26.

The demonstrators - most of them young - are voicing their opposition to the Friday decision of the Constitutional Court to allow the incumbent president to stand for a third term.

Police responded as dark fell and youths began throwing stones. Police also are firing cannons of hot water on the crowd.

All the leaders of the opposition are attending the rally, as well as invalidated candidate Youssou N’Dour, who made a speech to the passionate crowd encouraging peace - and telling the crowd that Senegal is “our nation” and that they should not spoil it.

As the demonstration got going, the leaders of M23, who organized the event, told people to sit on the floor to express their wish for peace.

As they sat down, they sang songs - "the old man is dead," they sang. "We have had enough. We are taking notice. Society is moving. We respect our Senegal."

The crowds held their arms in the air, clapping before crossing their fists in the air to indicate that Wade should put an end to his presidency.

The M23 group of opposition and civic organizations is not relenting in its call for the 85-year-old president to withdraw from elections.

They believe that with enough pressure the president will withdraw his bid for the presidency.

Cheikh Alasane was amid the crowd - an academic who had come to support the largely youthful masses.

"I’m here to support the protest," he said, "because I think the time has come for each of us to confront ourselves these problems that have been given to us."

"t is time to take our responsibilities," Alasane added. "This is a flagrant violation of the constitution. When someone wants to tear this apart, people are obliged to take their courage in their hands and fight this regime which wants to put us on our knees."

Student Bibi Camera was among the protesters.

"I am here because of our president," he said. "He is taking us for a ride. We don’t want him anymore. If he doesn’t listen we will try to take him out of the palace because we are so sick of it. We want this to be peaceful. It will be pure. We are determined and we will be content tonight, enshallah."

Another protestor Alio Thoum said he is disappointed at the political situation in his country - and compared Wade to Gadhafi.

"I am even asking myself what country I am in. It is a country where peace has reigned. But now it is not the same because of the court’s decision. It is time for him to go," said Thoum. "He [Wade] said that to Gadhafi, and now the same situation applies to him."
The protests continued until dusk.

A rapper led the crowd with chants of Y En A Marre while waving a banner bearing the same slogan.

However, as the darkness deepened, youths began burning tires and some attempted to penetrate the police line to get to the presidential palace.

Police tried to stop them, and when the crowd began to throw stones - the police retaliated with water cannons.

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