Senegal’s President Abdoulaye Wade has ignored appeals by former Nigerian leader Olusegun Obasanjo to withdraw from the presidential race scheduled for Sunday.
The country’s opposition politicians and civil society leaders expressed satisfaction after their first meeting with Obasanjo, the African Union and Economic Community of West African States head of observer mission, in Dakar.
But after Obasanjo’s meeting with Wade, the ruling party said it would neither withdraw the president’s candidacy nor postpone the date of the election.
Wade is seeking a highly disputed third term.
Throughout Wednesday, the former Nigerian president held separate meetings at a local hotel with leaders of the main opposition members.
He also met the leader of the civil society movement, Alioune Tine, and the leader of the young rappers movement ‘Y’en a marre’ (Fed Up), Fadel Barro.
Their requests were unanimous — the withdrawal of President Wade’s candidacy ahead of the poll and to dissuade the riot police from using live bullets against protesters.
Upon arrival on Tuesday, Obasanjo, who is fully aware of the political climate in Senegal, said: “If necessary, my role will be more than that of a simple observer”.
The declaration was well-received by the entire opposition and civil society groups as well as ordinary citizens who are keen to see an immediate end to the killing of innocent civilians.
Up to eight have been killed so far since the anti-Wade protests erupted last month.
Addressing journalists separately after the meeting, Moustapha Niasse of the largest opposition coalition, Benno Siggil Senegal, said Obasanjo’s mission is not a simple one of observation but concerns peace.
Niasse said “Diplomatically speaking, a peace mission has more powers and more freedom to work than simply a mediation mission.”
Tine said he had fully briefed the former Nigerian leader about the violence against unarmed pro-democracy protesters, culminating in the killing of mostly students who form the bulk of the demonstrators.
He said he was in favour of the postponement of the February 26 poll because several parts of the country, including the capital Dakar, where a significant number of legible