Home SENEGAL SENEGAL – “A runaway democracy” by Feline Sarr

SENEGAL – “A runaway democracy” by Feline Sarr

Felwine Sarr

The elimination of political opponents from the presidential election race is a constant in the West African political scene. The means are unfortunately well known: accusations of misappropriation of public funds or tax evasion, questioning of the nationality of the candidate, exiles, banishments, imprisonments, international arrest warrants, instrumentalization of justice and parliament. The range is vast and the imagination of our leaders in this field is fertile. By Seneplus

In our latitudes, when we come to power, we keep it. The constitution was revised to remain more than expected; failing that, it was not respected, and its interpretation was wronged with the help of venerable jurists or constitutional advice to the orders. We’re subjugating the counterpowers. From democracy, only the institutional forms are retained and the meaning and substance of them are quickly removed. We buy when we can certain media outlets to muzzle free expression, we hinder the right of citizens to protest, which is guaranteed by the constitution, we restrict public space and individual freedoms, we intimidate dissenting voices. Following formal elections, scrutinized by national and especially international observers (when accepted), the satisfaction of the international community is sought on the validity and transparency of the process. Once this white man is in his pocket, he returns to starve the population, maintain its political clientele, enjoy power and its excesses, betray the social contract of shared well-being, equality of opportunity and social justice on whose behalf he was elected. With a few exceptions, we only play the game of electoral competition once we have ensured that we have enough control over the electoral machinery and/or that the most serious opponents have been eliminated from the game. The adage is known, under our skies, when we have power, we do not organize elections to lose them, unless we have ensured a succession that absolves you of the necessary accountability of public action, once again a normal citizen.

In recent years we have experienced a series of democratic dispossessions and it is this cycle that we must stop. It is about not letting ourselves be dispossessed of the ability to shape our collective destiny

We all witnessed the event. A private affair between an opposition political leader and a Senegalese citizen whose theatre was the intimacy of a massage parlour has become a state affair. Ousmane Sonko, leader of Pastef is accused of rape by citizen Adji Sarr. This case could (should) have been decided before the competent courts, in the normal time of the Senegalese justice, respecting the rights of both parties, in a serenity that would have removed us from any suspicion of machination or non-impartiality. Instead, the home of the leader of the Pastef was besieged from the first days of the affair by the security forces. From the outset, this gave the case a political character. We hastened to set in motion against him the judicial system with a speed that we did not know about our justice, twisting in the passage some rules of law. The accused, Ousmane Sonko, saw in about ten days his parliamentary immunity lifted. In spite of the fact that the minutes of the hearings of the gendarmes, which have leaked, induce in any reasonable and impartial person a serious doubt on the qualification of the facts, the public prosecutor, master of prosecutions, decided to set in motion the legal club, because that is what we are talking about, when it comes to opponents of the current regime whose claims to the throne are taken seriously. The Khalifa Sall case is there to edify us. The extreme impartiality of which he was the object left us all a bitter taste, but above all lit in our brains an alert, which began to sound when we saw the same scenario sketched out. A strange and persistent sense of déjà vu has inhabited us. Just recall that the accused Ousmane Sonko obtained for a first participation in the presidential elections of 2019, more than 15% of the votes of Senegalese, which makes him in the absence of a Senegalese left and a real political alternative, a serious candidate for the next election. It is a question of analysing what the event reveals to us and the truth it carries about the nature of our national political life. The turn this affair is taking is the expression of a deep crisis of our democracy, which, moreover, boasts of being exemplary in comparing itself always less accomplished than it on the continent.

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Since Wade, the weakening and corrosion of the gains of Senegalese democracy is a gentle slope that we have taken. Had it not been for the start of 23 June 2011 and 25 March 2012; in particular the opposition of the Senegalese to his attempt to install a presidential ticket requiring only 25% of the vote to be elected, and that of running for a third unconstitutional mandate, we wouldn’t be where we are today. A monarchical devolution of power awaited us. The M23, Y en A Marre, Duty of resistance, the opposition, civil society, trade unions, Senegalese citizens, have preserved us.

The ideals for which we fought in 2012: strengthening our democracy through adequate institutional reforms, balance of power, social justice, accountability, equality of citizens before the law, The elimination of corruption has been continuously eroded since then. We have seen emblematic figures of the Wade regime against which we rose in 2012, moving towards the presidential majority, some denying urbi and orbi their previous commitments; individuals suspected of embezzlement of public funds, some pinned by the reports of the state control corps, finding thanks to the Prince’s side. The moral decay of political life has led most of the citizens of this country to regard politics as the place par excellence for the expression of cynicism and the confrontation of opportunities, whereas it must be that space where the community shapes its destiny and works to realize its highest aspirations. This is also due in part to the fact that we deserted this place, judging its breathless air. What have we witnessed in recent weeks? Activists exercising their right to protest arrested and thrown into prison, a hunt for Pastef supporters, citizens demonstrating their support for their leader, taken on board by the police, journalists hampered in the exercise of their profession. Moreover, in recent years the color was announced; several opponents have experienced the prison, the recurring embalming of activists exercising their freedom of criticism (Guy Marius Sagna has become its emblem. He is currently held in solitary confinement in Cape Manuel in unworthy conditions); a Senegalese woman, Oulèye Mané, having circulated in her WhatsApp a cartoon of the Head of State, Saer Kébé, a 16-year-old high school student who spoke out against Charlie on social media, also ended up in prison. Yet Senegal is the country of a hard-won freedom of expression. We felt that liy raam ci nag ba la jëm.

Of the multitude of facts that could be told infinitely, it is however necessary to move to the paradigm. We have had a series of democratic dispossessions in recent years, and that is the cycle we must stop.Democracy, more than a form of state, is a real figure in political life. It commits us to defending what holds society together. And one of those pillars is justice. In our context, the issue is as much the exercise of power, the standards to which that power is subject, as the purposes it gives itself. A power separated from the idea of justice, that nothing more balances, that no dam retains, drunk with the monopoly of the exercise of public force, is exposed to all the excesses.And God knows that there are many tasks to be undertaken for the well-being of vulnerable Senegalese populations. Must we remind those who exercise it that it is we who have entrusted it to them for a time, so that they may be attuned to the conditions of our greatest good? The leader of Pastef as he was on his way to the convocation of the court was arrested for disturbances to public order and placed in custody in the premises of the search section of the gendarmerie in Colobane.

The leap to which we owe our salvation is today in the camp of Justice. It is up to it to restore the rule of law and to judge the facts by an impartial investigation. He must settle the dispute between Ousmane Sonko and Adji Sarr through a fair trial, outside of any political agenda. Our salvation is also in the vigilance and commitment of citizens, to defend the idea we make of what the community must become. It is for us not to allow ourselves to be dispossessed of the ability to shape our collective destiny. Beyond the present battle for real democracy and impartial justice, we must seriously work to build a real social and political alternative and thus rebuild the Senegalese nation.


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