Since the presidential election of 2019, there has been a recurring debate in Senegal on the possible candidacy of the current President for the presidential election of 2024. This debate should never have taken place, because the President having solemnly affirmed to many times that his current mandate is his second and last, and wrote it in his book In the heart of Senegal. In addition, the Constitution has already settled the question, by providing in paragraph 2 of its article 27: “No one can exercise more than two consecutive mandates.” A term of seven years and another of five years make two consecutive terms in the case of the current President. The terms of the Constitution are very clear and cannot suffer from ambiguity. Legally and morally, the current President does not have the right to run again in 2024. The neither-nor is therefore unjustified, as are the fallacious legal arguments which would allow him to run again in 2024.
Senegal has strong and relatively well-functioning institutions. In this case, what would justify a person believing themselves indispensable to the point of saying that the state would not function without them? Nothing.
Senegal must continue to be at the forefront of democracy. If he cannot do more, he must not do less. It should not follow the example of Côte d’Ivoire or Guinea; the latter suffered a coup d’etat. On the contrary, it must be one of the beacons of democracy in Africa. If Macky Sall runs for a third term, it will lead to instability in the country. If he wins, he will not have the legitimacy to rule, and legitimacy is as important as legality. If he loses, he will be ashamed of the defeat and the odious reminder of his words back then.
Too often, I have the impression that Senegal is falling down the democratic ladder. There have been, lately, too many cases which give the impression that Justice is exploited or that stories are invented from scratch. There have been too many suspicious deaths that have never been elucidated and without the State’s manifest desire to have them elucidated (Mancabou, Sambou, etc.). There has been too much and often an unjust use of force, such as the barricade of Cité Keur Gorgui when Sonko must appear before Justice. There have been too many stories that seem to have been created from scratch. The Senegal of 2023 resembles these words of Victor Hugo: “Police everywhere, Justice nowhere.”
Coming back to Macky Sall’s candidacy, this will take us back years with Abdoulaye Wade. His decision then to run for a third term tarnished his legacy: had he decided to step down and hold transparent elections, he would rank among the great African presidents. The same thing would happen to the current President: if he decides to run in 2024, his reputation will be tarnished.
It is not only in power that you can do things, African presidents need to know that power is a mandate from the people, and this mandate is not eternal. This poses the problem of the political class: being a politician is not a job. If we look at the Senegalese political leaders, few of them have a known job. Most hold forth in the media all day long. Why should state corporations be run by politicians? Another consequence of this questioning is the great place occupied by the political class. This place must be diminished, “reduced to its simplest expression”, because today politicians have become a nomenklatura, who have only their interests at heart, who have no convictions, no principles, who will deny what they said yesterday to justify their support today.
When I read the Senegalese media, I observe even more the great place occupied by politics in our country. A country will not develop through politics; a country develops through education, science, technology, entrepreneurship, culture. The media should talk about these subjects more and less about political subjects.
We have to think about the place we leave in history. Many leaders who could have been entitled to an additional term refrained from doing so: it was Washington who decided to step down after two terms, it was Mandela who decided not to run for a second term. This decision of these leaders has earned them a special place in posterity, respect from their compatriots and the whole world. They had understood that no one is indispensable: the State will continue to function because it is a continuity.
Even if the state no longer functioned, that would be a failure for a leader, one of whose fundamental responsibilities is to prepare his succession. This amounts to training people capable of continuing the work of building a State. One generation does its part, then another continues it: this legacy is perpetuated because each generation wants to do more than the previous one. This is what allowed the construction and development of great nations. It is this spirit that must animate us collectively, we Senegalese.
The question of the third mandate is a useless debate because it is not necessary. The current President or any other person is indispensable. The State is above our persons and it is a common heritage of the Nation. It would therefore be appropriate to put an end to this debate and work for the development of Senegal. Senegal is bigger than any Senegalese, Senegal is bigger than any politician.
I have always believed that Senegal is not in its place; it must go beyond its present stage. Senegal should no longer ask for help, it should provide it. Senegal must go beyond the stage where we argue whether the President can run for a third term, he must settle it definitively and move on; it suffices that he declares, in accordance with his words of yesterday, that he is in his last mandate and that he will organize free, inclusive and transparent elections.
The construction of a prosperous Senegal, which gives the chance to all Senegalese men and women to flourish, is urgent today. So Mr. President, put an end to this debate, think about the mark you will leave on posterity, about the emulation you will create. Otherwise, you could win and you will not have legitimacy – you will always be reminded of your previous statements – or you could lose, and it would be a dishonor, the word given is sacred to an authority. This interest of Senegal, that it continues to be an example, justifies that you do not present yourself in the presidential election of 2024 and that you organize free and transparent elections. You will walk out the front door and you deserve to be in the pantheon of the greats of this country. Senegal deserves it, considering everything it has given you.