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‘Senegalese Protected Their Democracy’: Austin Aigbe Commends Senegal’s Presidential Election

Austin Aigbe gives credit to the Senegalese military for allowing the constitutional court safeguard its democracy.

Following the victory of opposition candidate Bassirou Diomaye Faye in the just concluded Senegal presidential election, a member of West Africa Democracy Solidarity Network (WADEMOS), Austin Aigbe in an interview with ARISE NEWS on Tuesday has commended the people of Senegal, hailing their commitment to democracy.

“Congratulations to all West African states, congratulations to everybody. The people of Senegal stood in defence of their democracy, against all odds, despite losing some of their citizens, despite losing some of their comrades. They stood protected, stood by their own democracy.

“In the West African region, Senegal tends to have the strongest democracy and they proved again that they truly do have the strongest democracy, because the power of the people is stronger than the power of the people in power. So the power of the people resonates.”

He also gave credit to the military for allowing the constitutional court to address the impasse, thereby safeguarding democracy, as well as the various institutions that played a crucial role in resolving political tensions.

“Beyond the people, it’s not that other countries of west africa don’t have that vibrant citizenship. It’s also the institutions, the civil institutions, particularly the military, who stayed off the political frail to allow the democratic institutions to settle the political impasse. The military stayed off and allowed the constitutional court saddled with the responsibility to settle that impasse, otherwise, probably what we would have been hearing in senegal would have been a different story today, but the military stood in defense of democracy.

“Congratulations to the military and of course, congratulations to the constitutional court who told the executive arm of government particularly in this case, Macky Sall that you do not have the leverage, the power to extend your tenure beyond April the 2nd, that your tenure ends April the 2nd, that elections should hold as soon as possible. The constitutional court was very careful in their choice of words without necessarily giving a day for the elections.”

In commending ECOWAS for its role in the election, he said, “ECOWAS stood its ground to protect its own protocol, ECOWAS did not sit on the fence. In most areas ECOWAS tends to play behind the scene diplomacy. In this case ECOWAS did release a statement for the country to revert to the process of electioneering, that the process must continue and complete appropriately. And of course, all the international community that called in, that weighed in, that supported the people of Senegal, its kudos.”

He however called for Senegal to reassess its laws regarding presidential powers, adding that concentrating so much authority in the hands of the president to the extent that he is able to determine election dates is excessive.

“But beyond that is that Senegal must again review its laws that one individual, the power on the president, I think it is too much to determine the date of the election. We must avoid a repeat of this in the next five years or ten years time.”

In the same interview, Former Nigerian Diplomat, Joe Keshi echoed similar sentiments, showering praises on the democratic process of Senegal’s presidential election.

“Senegal has reaffirmed its commitment to democracy and it had a good fortune of experiencing democracy since its independence and despite the antics of the outgoing president in the last couple of months, the outcome of yesterday’s election and the fact that it has gone peacefully well and all the candidates have expressed their congratulations to the new president, is a pointer that in this part of the world, democracy is not receding, democracy is not declining.

“When millions of people go to the polls to vote and their votes count, democracy will survive. But in a situation where their votes do not count and the electoral officers do misbehave, you create a problem. So we must give credit to everybody.”

He further highlighted that the African continent could take a leaf from the people of Senegal and its democracy.

“I think this is a lesson for all of us in the region and in particular in the African continent that democracy can survive if we fight for it. When Macky Sall started his antics, the people came out and protested and held on to that view that they want a democratic election. And today, they have also seen that come through.

“I hope our political parties are learning a few things from Senegal.There are a couple of things we need to learn from Senegal and one of them is that you can actually form an alliance and challenge the ruling party. I say congratulations to the people of Senegal, they’ve made us proud. We are happy with the development but I re-emphasize again, democracy is not receding. If the politicians and our leaders allow the democratic process to flourish, democracy will certainly survive in this part of the world.”

Melissa Enoch

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