Wade admits succession plan with son likely choice

Karim is an adviser to his father and also heads agency tasked with major projects

Wednesday August 6 2008

Senegal’s President Abdoulaye Wade is greeted

Senegal’s President Abdoulaye Wade is greeted by France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy on the steps of the Elysee Palace in Paris on a past visit. Photos/FILE 

By HAMADOU TIDIANE SY, NATION Correspondent DAKAR, Wednesday

Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade has ignited criticism over his handling of state affairs after he reportedly made it clear that he is “preparing” the ground for somebody he can trust to succeed him at the head of the nation.

This statement has reinforced suspicion in the country that this “somebody” is no other than Karim Wade, the president’s own son, who is believed by many to be groomed by his father for the presidency.

“I am not going to take the mandate, the country and hand it over to somebody who cannot handle the situation or who is not loved by the people”, the president told the Voice of America in an interview, a transcript of which was extensively published by the Senegalese daily Sud-Quotidien.

Although the Interview is said to have taken place on July 29th, Sud-Quotidien only published the transcripts on Monday August 4, giving the Tuesday papers a good peg to tackle the recurring succession issue once again.

In its Tuesday edition, the leading private daily, Wal Fadjri wrote in its cover page that Mr “Wade wants his son in the seat of power”.

Quoting the coalition of opposition parties, the newspaper added that “Senegal has never mandated president Wade to choose himself a successor”.

This is not the first time that President Wade has talked about his succession. Just after his re-election for a second term in 2007, he made similar statements, but at the time it was not very clear whether it was a “successor” to head his ruling party or a successor to lead the nation.

Was more accurate

This time he was more accurate when talking about “mandate” and “nation”, even though, later in the interview, he tried to qualify his words, saying “I am a democrat, whatever my preferences, I’ll organise transparent elections”.

But the local media, worried about the latest developments in the country, did not pay much attention to his remarks promising free and fair polls.

A Senegalese news web site, nettalli.net suggested that under President Wade’ leadership, Senegal is evolving “from Republic to Enlightened Despotism” in a commentary reprinted in some newspapers on Tuesday.

The statement to the VOA was made at a time when the country is still questioning the legality of a law passed by Parliament to amend the Constitution, extending the presidential mandate from five to seven years.

The decision has been questioned by many constitutional law experts and severely criticised by some civil society organizations.

Asked in the VOA interview about that decision, president Abdoulaye Wade explained that he made an “error” when he decided to shorten the presidential term in the Constitution he proposed to the nation and which was approved after he came to power in 2000.

Opposition leaders as well as independent analysts have interpreted this move as one step in the series of political manoeuvres undertaken by Mr Wade to keep the presidential seat within the “family” circle, and more particularly for his son Karim.

Mr Karim Wade, also an adviser to his father, is currently chairing a national agency in charge of the organization of the Islamic Conference Summit.

The summit was held in March 2008, but the Agency still exists, officially to complete some public works which were started or due to be built by the agency.

Meanwhile, supporters of Karim Wade have set up a movement called La Génération du Concret or “The Concrete Generation”.

This movement is believed to be the platform he wants to use when the time comes for him to enter into the political arena.

Meanwhile, here are facts about President Wade:

Born in the northern Senegalese coastal city of Saint Louis in May 1926, Mr Wade was educated in primary and secondary schools in Paris. He is married to a French woman and has two children, adds Reuters.

He holds degrees and teaching certificates in economics, law, humanities, mathematics and physics.

Mr Wade worked as a barrister for a few years in Besancon, France before returning to Senegal where he opened his own law firm and began teaching courses at the University of Dakar.

He became a permanent faculty member in the law school and department of economics, and later served as dean of the law school.

Mr Wade first ran for president against Senegal’s first post-independence president Leopold Sedar Senghor in 1978 and lost.

When riots followed a contested 1988 presidential election, he was thrown in jail. Found guilty of inciting insurrection, he was given a one-year suspended sentence.

Senghor’s successor Abdou Diouf amnestied him but he lost his seat in the National Assembly. He ran again in 1993, taking second place behind Diouf.

The year 2000 marked the end of a long march to power that began when Wade broke with the Socialists, then the country’s only party, to press for multi-party politics.

Mr Wade’s victory in 2000 presidential elections ended four decades of Socialist domination since independence from France in 1960.

A 2001 referendum shortened future presidential terms to five years.

In October, 2006, the ruling Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS) backed the 80-year-old president to stand for a second term.

In a February 25, 2007 presidential election, Mr Wade gained 55.86 per cent of the valid votes to win a second mandate.