June 25, 2024

Senegalese President Macky Sall announces decision not to pursue controversial third term


Senegal’s President Macky Sall, known for his soft-spoken demeanor, surprised the nation on Monday with his announcement that he would not seek a controversial third term in office. Despite his calm demeanor, observers suggest that Sall possesses an underlying stubbornness and hidden fire.

Cheikh Yerim Seck, author of a book on life in Senegal under Sall, described the president as “genuinely shy but misleadingly gentle.” The 61-year-old leader has put an end to months of speculation regarding his intentions to remain in power in this West African nation, which is considered a bastion of democracy in a troubled region.

Coinciding with his announcement, Sall’s bitter rival, Ousmane Sonko, called for mass protests against what he described as a corrupt and would-be dictatorial president. Sonko’s opposition to Sall has fueled political tensions in the country.

With his tall and broad-shouldered stature, Sall is known by the nickname “Niangal” in the Wolof language, which translates to “Mr. Stony Face.” The moniker is fitting for a man whose initial passion lay in geology.

Born into a modest family, Sall was one of five children. His father worked as a caretaker, while his mother sold peanuts. After studying geological engineering and briefly exploring Maoism, he rose through the ranks of the national oil company Petrosen.

It was during this time that Sall caught the attention of the then-president, Abdoulaye Wade, who appointed him as the minister of mining and energy in 2001. He subsequently served as interior minister and prime minister before being rewarded with the position of National Assembly speaker for his work on Wade’s 2007 re-election campaign.

However, Sall’s rapid rise came to a sudden halt when he clashed with Wade over ordering the testimony of Wade’s son in parliament regarding suspected fraud. Pro-Wade members of parliament forced Sall out as speaker, leading him to resign from all his elected positions and leave Wade’s Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS). He formed his own political group, the Alliance for the Republic-Yakaar (APR).

In 2012, Sall achieved a decisive victory over his former mentor in bitterly contested elections. He rallied the opposition by accusing Wade of violating the constitution through his pursuit of a third term. Ironically, Wade argued that a constitutional revision during his presidency had reset the two-term limit.

Sall’s economic record has been a focal point of his presidency, earning grudging recognition even from his staunchest critics. He highlights achievements such as increased agricultural production, a significant infrastructure program encompassing a new airport and town near Dakar, a regional express train, highways, and improved health insurance coverage. Sall’s vision is to elevate Senegal from a developing to an “emerging” economy by 2035.

The president has also played a key role in bringing stability to the separatist-troubled southern region of Casamance and was instrumental in the removal of dictator Yahya Jammeh in neighboring Gambia in 2017. Sall is fluent in French and English, in addition to three other languages spoken in Senegal.

Married to Marieme Faye Sall, whom he met in high school, the couple has two sons and a daughter.

Critics of Sall accuse him of adopting an iron-fisted approach, which they argue has destabilized a country that was previously renowned for its democracy and stability. Notable Senegalese intellectuals, Mohamed

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