DStv Channel 403 Sunday, 21 April 2024

Senegal presidential hopeful Khalifa Sall campaigns despite uncertainty

Sporting a black cap and shaking hands with his fans, Khalifa Sall, one of the main contenders for Senegal's delayed presidential poll, rallied supporters in a working-class district of the capital Dakar.

The former mayor of Senegal's coastal capital said he was determined to continue campaigning despite the uncertainty surrounding the new election date.

Shouts of "We want Khalifa" reverberated across the crowd of hundreds gathered in a cobbled lane in Hann-Bel Air, a stronghold of the former mayor, who is no relation to incumbent President Macky Sall.

"We've been campaigning since February 4, and the electoral process is continuing," Khalifa Sall told the crowd.

"Politically and legally, we have every right to be campaigning," he added, moving to the rhythm of vuvuzelas while surrounded by campaign T-shirts and balloons.

Shouts of 'We want Khalifa' reverberated across the crowd
AFP | Seyllou

Senegal had been scheduled to vote on February 25, until President Sall announced a delay just hours before campaigning was due to begin.

The move plunged the traditionally stable West African nation into its worst political crisis in decades and sparked unrest during which four people were killed.

Last week, the Constitutional Council overturned the vote delay and called on President Sall to organise the poll "as soon as possible".

However, it has left open the question of whether the election will be organised before Sall officially leaves office on April 2.

Nineteen of the original 20 candidates remain in the race after one hopeful withdrew her name.  

Khalifa Sall, 68, is standing for president for the first time after being barred from the 2019 election due to a conviction that landed him in prison.

The former lawmaker trained as a teacher and was twice elected Dakar mayor in 2009 and 2014.

He was detained in 2017 and sentenced to five years in jail for financial crimes the following year.

- 'Right man to build Senegal' -

Sall, who has always protested his innocence and claims he was framed, was granted his freedom in 2019 following a presidential pardon.

His campaign programme for the 2024 election vows "an inclusive and prosperous Senegal within a framework of sustainable development".

Sall talked to local residents and activists as he made his way through the stalls, workshops and houses
AFP | Seyllou

He said he intends to invest in people-based development, including "responsible water management and equitable land distribution," in a country where more than half the population lives off agriculture.

"The hopes of peasants, fishermen and farmers," one supporter shouted to the crowd massed in Hann-Bel Air -- the starting point of a march through the district's backstreets.

Sall talked to local residents and activists as he made his way through the stalls, workshops and houses of the neighbourhood.

"He's the right man to build Senegal. He worked well when he was mayor of Dakar and he has experience," Ndeye Astou Sene, a 40-year-old housewife, told AFP.

"He used to give milk and uniforms to schoolchildren. All that disappeared when he left the mayor's office," she added.

But street vendor Papis Seck, 22, said he preferred to pin his hopes on imprisoned opposition figure Ousmane Sonko, describing the firebrand as "our only hope".

He said he would vote for Sonko's second-in-command, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, who is a contender in the election despite also being in prison.

Niakhana Ndao, a 50-year-old restaurant owner, praised the incumbent president's "many achievements" in office, and said she would vote for his camp's candidate, current prime minister Amadou Ba.

Security forces did not intervene in Monday's march.

But images posted on social media appeared to show tear gas being used to disperse a crowd near Khalifa Sall's motorcade in the Yoff neighbourhood of Dakar on Tuesday.

By Malick Rokhy Ba

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