News / Africa

    In Senegal, Presidential Term Limits Spark Hot Debate

    Senegal's President Macky Sall, seen in this Dec. 2015 file photo in Abuja, Nigeria, has come under pressure ahead of a constitutional referendum - set for March 20 - to limit presidential terms.
    Senegal's President Macky Sall, seen in this Dec. 2015 file photo in Abuja, Nigeria, has come under pressure ahead of a constitutional referendum - set for March 20 - to limit presidential terms.
    Alpha Jallow

    Senegal’s President Macky Sall has come under attack ahead of the constitutional referendum set for March 20.  The proposed changes would limit a president to two five-year terms.  But Sall has stirred controversy as saying the limit would not apply to his current term, which runs until 2019.   

    Campaigning is on in Senegal to vote “Yes” or “No” to the new constitution March 20.

    In the “yes” camp is the Minister of Youth and Employment Mame Mbaye Niang. He met residents in Thiaroye, a low-income suburb of the capital.

    He says none of the proposed constitutional changes are to help the president. He says these changes are about strengthening democracy and the rule of law and improving quality of life. He says he just passed through a neighborhood where people were complaining they lost their land. This reform will address those problems, he says, so you need to vote yes.

    The 15 proposed changes include giving more power to the National Assembly and local administrations while also expanding on existing laws about land inheritance and local communities’ control of natural resources.

    But the proposal is meeting fierce resistance.

    A new single by rap group Y En A Marre is calling on people to vote “no” in the referendum.

    Y En A Marre played a leading role in demonstrations against ex-president Abdoulaye Wade in 2012 when he ran for a third term at 87 years old.

    The group helped Macky Sall beat Wade but now is threatening more protests, this time against Sall.

    The group’s coordinator, Fadel Baro, says Macky Sall has failed to bring the big reform he promised and instead just wants to make small changes that have nothing to do with the lives of ordinary Senegalese. He says Macky Sall went back on his word and like all leaders who behave this way, he will pay a heavy price.

    The key dispute here is over the shortening of the presidential mandate. Sall has repeatedly promised, even before he was elected, to reduce his term from seven to five years. But now that the provision is up for a vote, Sall says the new rule cannot legally apply to his current seven-year term.

    That explanation has not played well with some of his supporters, who say Sall broke his word.

    Human rights campaigner Aboubacry Mbodj says we are surprised that Sall changed his tune just a few weeks before the referendum. You know in Africa, he says, promises are very strong and sacred.

    But Djibril Balde of the ruling coalition, Benno Bokk Yakaar, says Sall is still making history.  

    Balde says this is really quite extraordinary and rare in Africa for an elected president to campaign in favor of reducing his potential time in office.

    Over the past two years, presidential term limits have become one of the burning issues on the continent.  Efforts by leaders to extend their stays in office have led to unrest in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi, and the ouster of longtime Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore in 2014.

    You May Like

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    This forum has been closed.
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora