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To Pursue Prosecution, Senegal Guts immunity of jailed Dakar mayor

Jailed Dakar’s Mayor and leading Opposition Figure, Khalifa Sall

DAKAR, Senegal – Senegal’s political landscape is becoming controversial and showing signs of witch-hunt, as the country’s leading opposition leader is being charged with corruption.

Khalifa Sall, not relations to the country’s president Macky Sall, is the mayor of Dakar, a member of the country’s parliament and the man who poses the most electoral threat to President Macky Sall in the country’s upcoming presidential election.

Since then, analysts believe he has been witch-hunted by the Senegalese government on corruption charges that some Senegalese referred to as frivolous.  The former has been facing graft allegations and court action against the government since, but under the country’s constitution members of parliament have immunity and therefore cannot face certain persecution.

Last week, Senegal’s national assembly (a unicameral legislature which is the equivalent of the Senate and House of Representatives in a presidential system of government) has lifted the parliamentary immunity of mayor Khalifa Sall, who is a leading opponent of President Macky Sall.

The lifting the immunity paves the way for his trial on graft charges to proceed in what others in both the international circles and in Senegal say is a license for the president and the ruling party to silence a viable opposition candidate.

Senegal’s National Assembly

Credible sources informed Globe Afrique that the mayor has been in pre-trial detention since March this year on what his supporters say are politically-motivated charges and a political witch-hunt.

The issue of lifting the mayor’s immunity drawn firing outcry among some lawmakers who see it as a bad precedence.  However, after a rowdy deliberation, the country’s deputies (lawmakers) on late Saturday voted by 125 to 27 to back a report by a parliamentary commission calling for Sall’s immunity to be lifted.

Security forces used tear gas earlier Saturday to break up a protest from dozens of the mayor’s supporters outside the parliament building in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, according to eyewitnesses.

In March this year, the Senegalese government accused the mayor of misappropriating 1.83 billion CFA francs ($2.85 million, 2.7 million euros) in Dakar’s city funds, but he has repeatedly denied the charges, calling them a proxy to deflect a challenge to President Macky Sall in the country’s 2019 presidential elections.

Khalifa Sall has been the mayor of Dakar since 2009.  A popular political personality, he was also elected to Senegal’s parliament in July and is widely viewed as been the key opposition contender for 2019 presidential elections.

In the streets, thousands of his supporters, chanting “Khalifa until we die!”, filled the streets the capital last month to call for his release.  While the charges against him cannot be ignored or believed now until adjudicated in the court of law, political analysts and commentators say African leaders are usually known for dictatorial tendencies and use ‘made of charges’ and bogus persecution to silence dissent and political competition.  It remains to be seen if President Macky Sall who carries himself a democrat and reformer is doing a similar thing.

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Michael Harrington

Michael Harrington is a researcher and senior contributing reporter with Globe Afrique Media.
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