After a year’s absence from one of my favorite cities, I’ve just arrived back in Dakar, Senegal to cover the Feb. 26 presidential elections as well as some of the underlying social issues that are feeding the people’s growing anger toward their current government.
I immediately headed downtown, where the opposition group known as M23 was trying to gather its ranks to stage a protest, despite a current government ban against demonstrations.
Trying to avoid police forces, the demonstrators ran through the narrow streets of the capital city’s downtown, and when enough of them gathered in one place, they would often hold their hands above their heads in the form of an X (symbolizing the tied hands of the people), and begin shouting in French, demanding that President Abdoulaye Wade leave power.
Wade is running for a third term as the West African country’s leader. His bid for office has sparked protests throughout Senegal, as opposition accuse the 85-year-old president of violating the constitution. Wade himself amended the Senegalese constitution during his first term to impose a presidential two-term limit. Senegal has long held a reputation as one of the region’s most peaceful and stable democracies and these elections and the related protests, some of which have turned violent, have some political observers worried about the country’s future.
During the demonstration, protesters rarely got the chance to gather together for more than a minute or two before police arrived and began firing tear gas at them at nearly every turn. The demonstrators often hurled rocks back at the police forces in protest.
More demonstrations are scheduled in the days leading up to next week’s election.