Senegal’s opposition leader vows to run for president despite ongoing jail term

Khalifa_Sall
Khalifa Sall

Khalifa Sall, Senegal’s jailed opposition leader and former mayor of the capital Dakar has vowed to run for president in February 2019.

Sall is serving a five-year jail term for embezzling 1.8 billion CFA francs ($3.24 million) and falsifying documents, charges he denies and is in the process of appealing.

“Yes I am a candidate for the presidential elections on February 24 2019,” Sall said in the letter.

It was unclear if Sall, once considered a rising political star and rival to President Macky Sall, would continue to run if his appeal fails and he remains in jail. The two men are not related.

But he does have loyal supporters, especially in the beachside capital Dakar, many of whom believe his arrest is politically motivated and aimed at preventing him from running in February. The government denies this.

Senegal’s democratic reputation to be tested

Senegal is one of West Africa’s most stable democracies, an image reinforced by a peaceful and well organised 2012 presidential poll.

But opposition politicians say there is a growing intolerance for dissent and that there is a problem with corruption, including in the country’s nascent oil and gas sector.

Karim Wade, the son of former president Wade, served three years in prison for corruption, including hiding funds in offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands and Panama.