Anger mounts in Senegal as election nears; at least 1 killed

A Senegalese court has ruled that President Abdoulaye Wade can run for office again.

Story highlights

  • At least one is killed Tuesday as Dakar protest turns violent, state media says
  • Throngs take to the streets this week to protest a court decision
  • Protests started after a ruling allowed the elderly president to run for a third term
  • Senegal has largely remained peaceful in a region rocked by coups and political strife
Senegal remained tense Wednesday following days of violent protests over a court decision that allows the incumbent president to run for a third term.
President Abdoulaye Wade, 85, has been in office since 2000.
Wade plans to run for re-election this year despite a constitutional mandate that limits presidents to two terms.
A court ruled in his favor last week after the incumbent argued he is exempt because he took office before the term limit was put into place.
Throngs took to the streets in the West African nation this week to protest the Friday ruling, with protesters clashing with police in the capital Tuesday.
In the capital of Dakar, an opposition group demonstration turned violent Tuesday night when a speaker called for protesters to march to the presidential palace.
One protester died and dozens were injured, state media reported.
Angry mobs burned tires and hurled stones at the police, who responded with tear gas and advanced in armored vehicles.
Footage on local news stations showed a man run over by an armored car as he tried to run away from the police.
A government official confirmed a protester died, but denied state forces were responsible, according to the state-run APS news agency.
''We (police) were professionals to the end. The police never fired live ammunition at the demonstrators. People say it is the police vehicle which struck the young man who died: it is completely wrong. This is not true," said Arona Sy, the Dakar police commissioner.
Sy said authorities have checked all police cars dispatched to the protests.
"There is no trace of blood in the vehicle," Sy said.
Senegal's opposition organized the rally to protest the ruling allowing Wade to run for a third term and call for the release of its leader and dozens of others arrested in the weekend rioting that followed the ruling.
The group is also demanding that Senegal's highest court, the constitutional council, allow three independent candidates, including Grammy-winning musician Youssou N'Dour, to seek the presidency.
The court rejected their candidacies last week in the same ruling that granted Wade and 13 others spots on the February ballot.
It ruled that the three rejected candidates failed to gather 10,000 valid signatures.
The June 23 Movement, or M23, is named after the date of protests last summer that forced Wade to withdraw a constitutional amendment that would almost guarantee his victory in the February 26 election.
West Africa has a history of political strife, but Senegal has largely maintained peace and has never experienced a military coup.