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Senegal’s Macky Sall vows to step down when official term ends

Senegal President Macky Sall said on Thursday that April 2 will be the end of his mandate as president of the West African nation. He added, however, that it was unlikely the election of a new president will be completed before then.

Sall’s announcement could assuage fears he was planning to extend his rule in the country, an issue that had contributed to a tense political climate, and sometimes violent protests in a country seen as one of the stable democracies in the region.

His announcement came after the country’s Constitutional Council, the highest election authority, ruled last week that a 10-month postponement of the vote was unlawful. The election had initially been scheduled for Feb. 25.

“April 2, 2024, will be the end of my term at the head of the country, the end of my binding relationship with the Senegalese people as president of the republic. I would like this debate to be clearly settled,” Sall said during an interview on national television.

Sall said however that he cannot issue a decree to hold the election before a national dialogue takes place.

The dialogue, which would include civil society groups, political parties and candidates, is set to begin on Monday and will likely finish by Tuesday, he said.

He said that candidates who had not been approved by the Constitutional Council would also be invited to the dialogue.

Prominent opposition figures including the firebrand jailed politician Ousmane Sonko and Karim Wade, the son of former president Abdoulaye Wade, were excluded from the list of 19 candidates approved for the election.

“If we find consensus, I will issue the decree immediately to set the date; if consensus is not found, I will refer the matter to the Constitutional Council,” Sall said.

But he added he did not think the process would be finished before April 2.

In case the process runs beyond that date, he said: “What is certain is that there will be no void. We cannot leave a country without a president.”

“I want to make the dichotomy clearly between the election and the end of the mandate,” he said, adding that he will follow the guidance of the Constitutional Council on the matter.

Asked about opposition candidate Bassirou Diomaye Faye, who has been in detention since April, Sall said he could benefit from a provisional release in order to participate in the dialogue.

Sall last week promised he would abide by the Constitutional Council’s request for the vote to be scheduled as soon as possible, after the crisis triggered violent street protests and warnings of authoritarian overreach.

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