How Senegal's president Macky Sall is reforming the country. Plus: Somalia's new dosh.
Last year Sweden considered officially recognising the Western Sahara, a disputed territory claimed by Morocco; more evidence of its progressive foreign policy. But business interests have got in the way: the opening of an Ikea in Casablanca came to a staggering halt and Morocco threatened to boycott Swedish companies such as Volvo. Now Sweden has announced a U-turn on the matter, satisfying both the Moroccan government and Swedish business interests; the Ikea will open after all. Only representatives of the Sahrawis have been calling foul.
Senegal president Macky Sall bucks a few trends for an African head of state. While many of his counterparts across the continent seek to extend their rule indefinitely, Sall has sought to revise the presidential mandate from seven years to five at a referendum in May. Meanwhile, as Gambia’s dictator Yahya Jammeh declares his country an Islamic republic, Sall is mulling a ban on the face veil and increasingly opts for a blue suit over the Senegalese boubou at international soirees.
Senegal’s stability, laïcité (secularism) and lead role in Africa’s independence movements give the country gravitas and Sall has channelled this sobriety since becoming president in 2012. He’s battled an image of state extravagance and corruption left by his predecessor Abdoulaye Wade, whose legacy includes a Stalinesque monument to the African renaissance in Dakar. Sall has been trying to fulfil an election promise to reform the constitution. Will this set a trend among his fellow leaders? “Senegal does hold a position of respect among African countries and Sall has ‘convening power’,” says Katherine Marshall, an expert on Senegal and former country director for the World Bank in Africa. “My hunch though is that his move is unlikely to have much impact on the power dynamics that are driving change to presidential term limits across the continent.”
Critics say Sall’s anti-corruption campaign has been too targeted at the old Wade cabal, rather than the day-to-day corruption that many Senegalese face. He has demonstrated a dogged will to keep the country’s governance on the straight and narrow, he just needs to make sure he doesn’t run out of time in office.
On the fifth anniversary of the revolution in Libya in February, its people had little reason to celebrate. The country is engulfed in a dispute between two governments and its militias, the economy is shrinking fast and the presence of Isis has the West seriously considering another intervention. Yet despite all this, the central post office has released an edition of stamps commemorating the revolution. At a time of strife and suspicion the stamps have a poignant message: one of national unity and territorial integrity. It’s a shame that there is nobody around to deliver the message to the militias.
Date: 10 April
Candidates: President Idriss Déby Itno, who has been in power since 1990, appears disinclined to retire after accepting the chairmanship of the African Union in January. Among the 63-year-old’s token opponents as he runs for his fifth time in office is former prime minister Kassire Coumakoye.
Issues: Chad struggles with corruption, poverty and poor governance, none of which are helped by the immovability of the president – although Déby has promised to reintroduce term limits (even though it was he who first engineered their abolition in 2005). Then there is the very real threat of war: Boko Haram’s Islamist insurgency in Nigeria has spilled over the border more than once, with the Lake Chad region declared a state of emergency last year.
Monocle comment: The recent trend of African leaders assuming jobs for life is disheartening but it’s a sadly propitious time for quasi-tyrants in the region. Déby need only gesture towards Libya and the Central African Republic to suggest that, as bad as things are in Chad, they could be worse.