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Senegal’s democracy at risk as president calls off election

On Saturday, President Macky Sall called off the election for his replacement without naming a new date, which means he will remain in power extralegally, thrusting the former rock of West African stability into crisis. On Monday, Sall called a special session of Parliament to consider a bill endorsing his decision and allowing a delay of up to six months.

What happened? Karim Wade, son of Sall’s predecessor and a political rival, was running for president but a constitutional court blocked his candidacy last month, alleging he held dual French and Senegalese citizenship. Wade claims he had renounced his French citizenship, and his party launched an investigation into two of the court’s justices last week. Then, in a masterstroke of political judo, Sall backed the investigation – and used it as the excuse to call off the elections.

Will Sall get away with it? The opposition parties rejected the cancellation, and police used tear gas on scattered groups of protesters in Dakar on Sunday, but the mass of civil society did not take to the streets. If elections do go forward – there’s no guarantee – the constitution requires 80 days' notice, and who knows how long the inquiry will take.

On the international stage, the Economic Community of West African States expressed concern but did not condemn the cancellation. ECOWAS has struggled to maintain democratic unity, with military juntas seizing control of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger in recent years, all of which announced their withdrawal last week.

Supporters of Burkina Faso's junta attend a rally to mark the one-year anniversary of the coup that brought Captain Ibrahim Traore to power in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, on Sept. 29, 2023.

REUTERS/ Yempabou Ouoba

ECOWAS “officially” loses three junta-run states

Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger say they have withdrawn from West Africa’s largest political bloc – but the Economic Community of West African States says it hasn’t received the paperwork. It won’t matter much in the short term because all three were already suspended by ECOWAS following military coups in their countries. Big picture? The move underlines an emerging cleavage in international alignment between the Sahel, trending toward Russia, and the coastal states with stronger ties to the US and Western Europe.
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Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune chairs the meeting of the Higher Committee for Supervision of Customs Declarations and Commercial Operations Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune chairs the meeting of the Higher Committee for Supervision of Customs Declarations and Commercial Operations in Algeria on Aug. 01, 2023 .

Algerian Presidency Office via Reuters

Algeria tries to play peacemaker in Niger

Algeria announced that the military junta in Niger has accepted its offer to mediate a return to civilian control. In late August, Algiers proposed a six-month-long transition plan, overseen by a civilian.

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Niger's junta supporters take part in a demonstration in front of a French army base in Niamey, Niger, on Aug. 11, 2023.

REUTERS/Mahamadou Hamidou

Talk, not troops, in Niger

West African nations continue to dither on using force in Niger, even after last week’s resolution by the Economic Community of West African States to send in troops to restore the government of ousted President Mohamed Bazoum.

Instead, Nigerian President and ECOWAS Chairman Bola Tinubu is pursuing diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis, including green-lighting a mission to Niger by a delegation of Islamic scholars, who met with coup leader General Abdourahamane Tchiani for several hours on Saturday.

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Thousands of supporters of Niger's coup flocked to a stadium in the capital Niamey on Sunday.

Reuters

Niger deadline passes

The Economic Community of West African States threatened to intervene militarily if Niger’s coup leaders didn’t restore the country’s democratically elected leader, President Mohamed Bazoum, by Sunday. That deadline has now passed without any sign of a military response.

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Demonstrators gather in support of the putschist soldiers in Niamey, Niger.

REUTERS/Balima Boureima

Niger, Niger burning bright


Supporters of Niger’s junta – which overthrew democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum last week – took to the streets of the capital, Niamey, on Sunday, waving Russian flags and denouncing France, its former colonial power. Protesters destroyed a plaque bearing the words “Embassy of France in Niger” and replaced it with Nigerien and Russian flags, while others set the tricolore ablaze.

What got protesters burning mad? Over the weekend, France and the EU joined the US in suspending aid to Niger, demanding that Bazoum be reinstated and order restored. In 2021, France provided 97 million euros in development and military aid, while the EU pledged 40 million euros to help train and equip Niger’s armed forces.

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Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu chairs a meeting with the leadership of the Armed Forces in Moscow, on July 3, 2023.

Handout via Reuters

Russia: The “Scumbag” speaks!

Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on Monday made his first public comments about the mutiny that mercenary warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin — who had repeatedly called him a “scumbag” — led against him 10 days ago.

In a terse statement that he read from a piece of paper during a broader meeting of military personnel, Shoigu said the mutiny had failed because rank-and-file soldiers had “courageously and selflessly carried out the tasks assigned to them.”

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Fighters of Wagner private mercenary group pull out of the headquarters of the Southern Military District in the city of Rostov-on-Don, Russia.

REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

Hard Numbers: Russian uprising edition – Wagner’s ranks, Ruble tanks, Rostov’s neighbors, Pugachev’s echo

50,000: Wagner Group is believed to have about 50,000 armed men in total. Some of them are hardened combat veterans, but many have been recruited from Russian prisons. Prigozhin has led about half that number in Ukraine and those are the men he took on the march to Moscow.

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