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DAKAR — Senegal’s opposition is hoping that a cocktail of social discontent, a clinging leader and the threat of hereditary power that has sparked deadly riots could also kindle a successful African Spring.
Having exhausted all legal avenues, opposition groups are counting on street pressure to force President Abdoulaye Wade to drop his candidacy for a third term, which they call a “constitutional coup d’état”.
A fiery political climate has seen observers draw parallels with people versus power uprisings that toppled regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen.
Many have looked to sub-Saharan Africa for signs of an African Spring in a region that is home to some of the world’s most iron-fisted and long-serving leaders.
Wade, in power for 12 years, is not usually counted among them. However, a decision by the constitutional court — five judges appointed by the president — that he can legally seek a third term, has triggered a backlash against his regime.
Since Friday the anti-Wade June 23 Movement (M23) protested angrily and violently at Obelisk Square in Dakar, calling it their “Tahrir Square” in honour of Egypt’s revolution. Protesters have talked about “Senegal’s Spring”.
Four people have died in the five days of violence.
During the uprisings in North Africa Senegal experienced protests against crippling power cuts and rising food and fuel prices. “The spark was there at the time but did not transform into a full blown flame,” said Johannesburg-based analyst and West Africa expert David Kode.
However, in Dakar prominent sociologist Dr Hadiya Tandian argued that democracy was firmly rooted in Senegal and that many African countries had “had their democratic revolutions”.
But the opposition believes Wade wants another term to groom his son, Karim, for succession.
Increasingly intransigent about his own importance to the country, Wade is as dismissive of crippling power cuts as the opposition protests which he calls “temper tantrums”.
This hubris, much like that of former leaders in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya who “grossly under-estimated the power of citizen action”, could be Wade’s undoing, said Kode. — Sapa-AFP.