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Senegal Bans Name of Opposition Party

Senegal's government is prohibiting a recently formed opposition party from naming itself "Our Country." The party was formed by a chief rival to Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade.

Senegalese Prime Minister Macky Sall says he has directed the interior ministry to prohibit any party from calling itself "Rewmi"-- or "Our Country" in Wolof, a language spoken widely in Senegal.

Sall told reporters the name "Rewmi" could not be appropriated by a political party and said he was obligated by the constitution to prevent the move.

"Rewmi" was launched last month largely as a political platform for opposition figure Idrissa Seck. Seck is a former prime minister and once protégé of President Abdoulaye Wade.

But last year, Seck was convicted of embezzling money earmarked for public works projects in his home city of Thies and was jailed for six months. On his release he went to France but returned to Senegal last month, announcing he will run against Mr. Wade in presidential elections next February.

Oumar Sarr is Remwi party president. He says the prime minister's ban is not aimed as much against the party as it is against Seck. "The problem is not the name of our party, I think. The problem is our candidate Mr. Seck. I think they just want to maybe delay our work in the field. But they cannot have the right because there is no way in our constitution they can say 'no you cannot have this name,'" he said.

Sarr says his party will wait for an official ruling by the interior ministry and then decide whether to file a court challenge.

Senegal's legislative and presidential elections are set for February 27. President Wade, 80, will seek a second term. He was elected seven years ago in a peaceful handover of power, ending four decades of Socialist Party rule.