Opposition groups in the west African nation of Senegal are calling for a nationwide protest Tuesday against President Abdoulaye Wade's controversial bid to seek a third term in next month's election.
The 85-year-old president has governed Senegal since 2000. But a year after he took office, the country's constitution was changed, limiting presidents to just two terms. Wade insists the change does not affect him since it was made after he came to power. Senegal's Constitutional Court has ruled in his favor.
But that decision sparked protests that began late last week, leading to the deaths of two people in the northern town of Podor. According to witnesses, a woman and a high school student were killed by security forces on Monday.
A policeman was killed on Friday during violent protests in Dakar, the capital.
Senegalese who spoke with VOA on the streets of Dakar were of the almost unanimous opinion that Wade should step down. The majority of Senegalese say he is too old to remain in office. Opposition candidates vow to fight him all the way to the February 26 election.
The unrest in Senegal has led to expressions of concern from both the United States and France. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns told reporters in Addis Ababa on Monday the decision by Wade to stand for re-election threatens Senegal's long record of political stability.
"We're concerned that the decision by President Wade to seek a third term undermines the spirit of democracy in Senegal, that it could jeopardize the many achievements of president Wade's tenure in office and it could jeopardize the decades-long record that Senegal has built up on the continent for democracy, democratic development and political stability,'' said Burns.
The protests in Senegal have been organized by a group of opposition and civic organizations known as M23, whose leader, Alioune Tine, was arrested on Saturday.
An M23 official told VOA's French-to Africa service it is not known where Tine is or why he is being held.
World music star Youssou N'dour had sought to run for the presidency. But the Constitutional Court rejected his candidacy, ruling that he failed to collect the proper number of valid signatures on his petition.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.