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Senegal: Trials, employment, emergence … The stakes of an election

With only five presidential candidates, the Constitutional Council has definitively rejected the candidacies of Karim Wade and Khalifa Sall. Two court cases that poison Senegalese politics and worry investors …

By Assanatou Baldé

Their candidacies being definitively rejected by the Constitutional Council which made its decision Sunday evening, Karim Wade and Khalifa Sall will not take part in the presidential elections of February 24th. Only five candidates were selected: Macky Sall, Idrissa Seck, Ousmane Sonko, Madické Niang and El Hadji Sall.

After Karim Wade decided to seize the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in November to have the validity of his registration on the electoral lists recognized, Khalifa Sall, former mayor of Dakar to try to win the case at the institution. He has been incarcerated since March 2017 and still hopes to be able to present himself despite being sentenced to five years in prison. His lawyers had already filed several lawsuits against the State of Senegal in the ECOWAS Court of Justice. However, it must be said that it is unlikely that these requests will succeed although the decisions of the ECOWAS Court of Justice are supposed to impose themselves on the member states, Dakar has so far always invoked the sovereignty of its judicial institutions, especially in the cases of  Karim Wade and Khalifa Sall.

Two cases that have plagued Senegalese politics since they broke out. Accused of illicit enrichment, Karim Wade was the first to be sentenced in March 2015 to six years in prison. After 38 months of detention, he received a presidential pardon and then exiled to Qatar with the obligation to pay a fine of 138 billion FCFA (more than 200 million euros). For his part Khalifa Sall, emblematic figure of the Socialist Party, which is part of the coalition that forms the majority in power, was sentenced in first instance on March 30 to five years in prison for “swindle with public money”, “Forgery and use of forgery in administrative documents” and “complicity in forgery of commercial writing”. A sentence confirmed on appeal on August 30.

In both camps there is the powerto dismiss two rivals size in view of the presidential election in February 2019, which will allow President Sall to have a boulevard to be easily reelected. Charges rejected by Dakar.

The race to seduce investors

Meanwhile, the country continues its race to attract investors, especially with the Senegal Emergent Plan (PSE), one of the great projects of President Macky Sall, which aims to radically transform the country by 2030 and improve the living conditions of the populations. For this Dakar multiplies initiatives by renovating its infrastructure, as shown by the inauguration on January 14 of the Regional Express Train (TER), from Dakar to Diamnadio. It will connect in 45 minutes Dakar to Diamniado. But the opposition points to its exorbitant cost: 1 billion euros! While the majority of the population lives below the poverty line, pushing many young people on the path of exile.

Although in the last three years Senegalese growth has exceeded 6% each year, it must reach 7 to 8% to create the necessary jobs. A major challenge as 45% of its population is under 14 years old. Even though Senegal is the fourth largest economy in West Africa, there is still a long way to go in order to have a competitive economy. In a report of the International Monetary Fund entitled “The race to the new frontier of income”, dating to September 2018, the public institution estimates that the growth of Senegal still depends too much on foreign investment and the money injected by the emigrants  enabling it to diversify its economy. The report also points to the fact that the country does not have an industrial policy that would make it possible to valorize its agricultural production and to position itself in the telecoms sector, also underlining that if Senegal continues to borrow at this rate 59.3% of gross domestic product will exceed 107% in 2020.

Figures that could well worry investors. Not to mention that they have their eyes riveted on the politics of the country in the run-up to the presidential election, where again everything is uncertain …