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Radio France Internationale
Radio France Internationale
Melissa Chemam with RFI

Senegalese demonstrate in Dakar both for and against President Sall

Senegal's civil society protested again on Saturday 24 February 2024 to call President Macky Sall to announce a date for the election, here with the F24 collective, in Dakar. © RFI/Melissa Chemam

Dakar, Senegal – Sunday was supposed to be the day of the presidential election in Senegal. Instead, the weekend was marked by a series of protests in Dakar, with the opposition and civil society organisations calling on President Macky Sall to announce a date. His supporters also staged a big event in another part of the city.

Hundreds of protesters turned out on Saturday in the neighbourhood of HLM Grand Yoff, in Dakar, at the invitation of the F24 collective, many chanting "Macky Sall dictator".

Some opposition leaders and presidential candidates also answered the call and came to speak with the protesters, and support their demand for the election to take place as soon as possible.

Protesters at meeting organised by F24 in the popular neighbourhood of HLM Grand Yoff, in Dakar, Senegal, on 24 February 2024. © RFI/Melissa Chemam

"Sall must accede to this request from the Senegalese population," Dethié Fall, candidate for the Senegalese presidential election, told them "to this request from Senegalese democracy."

Thierno Alassane Sall, member of the FC25 Front, which brings together 16 of the 19 validated candidates, wants to repeat that they are not going to join the dialogue the President invited them to.

"It is out of the question to sit down with the President of the Republic", he said.

"On Monday, we will submit a collective request to the Constitutional Council so that it complies with its decision", he added. "We have no intention of going to this dialogue!"

Peaceful gathering

Despite police presence, the rally went ahead peacefully.

Abdoulaye Bathily is the president of the communication commission of F24 movement, the "driving forces of Senegal".

He told RFI that Sall's action was tantamount to a coup.

"We are here to say no to this constitutional coup because we consider it a coup. And following the declaration of the President of the Republic who is not respecting the decisions of the Constitutional Council."

He denounced an "umpteenth attack on democracy", and added his voice to ask that the elections in Senegal be held on the due date.

"Of course, we have passed the date," he added, "but at least we can hold the elections before 2 April, the date of the end of the mandate of the President of the Republic."

Abdoulaye Bathily, coordinator for the F24 movement, led the meeting at HLM Grand Yoof, Dakar, Senegal, on Satruday 24 February 2024. © RFI/Melissa Chemam

Most political commentators have congratulated the F24 organisers for a successful meeting, well managed and beyond party lines.

Later on Saturday, a larger crowd met in front of the local town hall in Grand Yoff, and celebrated what they called a 'goodbye party' for the President.

F24 has invited people to return on Sunday to take selfies in front of what should've been their polling stations.

Organisers have also called for an opération ville morte (ghost town day) for Tuesday.

'Thank you' march

Meanwhile, in another part of the city, Macky Sall's supporters also marched to thank the President for his achievements.

Thousands of Senegalese gathered with placards reading "Macky is in our hearts".

A supporter of Senegal's current President holds up his portrait during a rally to support their leader in Dakar on 24 February 2024. AFP - JOHN WESSELS

The event was mocked by a part of the national and local press, who condemns Sall for triggering one the West African nation's worst political crises.

According to Sall, he delayed the election because of disputes over the disqualification of potential candidates and concerns about a return to unrest seen in 2021 and last year.

Mamadou Dia, a 30-year-old student, defended Sall's record as president since 2012 and believes the election date matters little.

"We are here to show national and international opinion that what people are saying about Macky Sall is totally false. Macky Sall has done all he needed to do for Senegal," he told French news agency AFP.

Sall to expected to announce a date for the election on Tuesday evening, even if opposition candidates boycott his invitation to dialogue.

If no agreement is reached during the dialogue, Sall said it would be up to the Constitutional Council to decide the next step.

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