Nelson Mandela: A life in pictures
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — World leaders and international observers on Monday lauded Senegal’s presidential runoff election, saying that the country’s peaceful vote and its quick resolution provided hope in a region long beset by coups and strongman rule.
In a surprise move just hours after polls closed, President Abdoulaye Wade called his opponent Macky Sall to congratulate his one-time protege on the victory. Sall’s elated supporters already had begun celebrating in the streets after early results showed him with a commanding lead.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said the peaceful Senegalese vote was a hopeful sign, days after Mali’s longtime president was ousted in a coup launched by mutinous soldiers.
“If there was ever any doubt, this election has proved that the foundation of Senegalese democracy is rock solid,” he said. “This is good for the Senegalese people and also for our sub-region, especially at a time one of our brother countries is facing grave challenges to constitutional order.”
Jonathan also praised Wade “for graciously accepting defeat, showing great maturity and statesmanship.”
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke by telephone Monday with Sall and Wade and congratulated them and the people of Senegal “for the exemplary manner in which both rounds of the presidential elections were conducted throughout the country,” U.N. deputy spokesman Eduardo del Buey said.
Ban said the civic responsibility displayed by all political actors and civil society “was indicative of Senegal’s strong democratic commitment,” the spokesman said.
The U.N. chief commended Wade “for his gracious and statesmanlike actions” and urged the outgoing and incoming presidents “to work together in the coming days in the interest of the country,” del Buey said.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy also commended the vote, which came after a violent election season that left at least six people dead.
“It’s very good news for Africa, in general, and Senegal, in particular,” Sarkozy said on France Info radio. “When you see what’s happening in Mali, it’s a reason for hope for all of Africa.”
Wade’s reputation took a nosedive when he announced last year that he planned to run for a third term even though he had revised the constitution to impose a two-term maximum. Some feared he would not step aside if opposition candidate Sall won Sunday’s vote.
However, state television reported only several hours after the polls closed that Wade had congratulated Sall.
“The results coming in indicated that Mr. Macky Sall had won. As I had always promised, I called him Sunday night to congratulate him,” Wade said in a statement that was released to reporters early Monday.
No date has been formally set for Sall’s inauguration as official results from the country’s electoral commission are not expected until later in the week.
Sociologist Hadiya Tandian said that Wade’s concession washes away the wounds of a violent election season, which tarnished the country’s reputation.
“This is a great victory for Senegal — it shows the maturity of our democracy,” Tandian said. “It shows that the Senegalese believe in their voter IDs, that a voter card can change something, can make a difference. It shows that our long democratic heritage continues to live in us day by day.”
At a midnight press conference at a Dakar hotel, Sall offered few details on the conversation he had with Wade earlier in the evening. Instead, he praised the voters and said he would be the president for all Senegalese.
“Tonight, a new era begins for Senegal,” Sall told the hundreds of journalists and euphoric supporters who crammed into the venue to hear him speak.
Most voters simply spoke of hardships or the need for change rather than Sall’s credentials when explaining whom they supported at the polls on Sunday.
Marieme Ousmane Wele, 55, said she had voted for Sall because the rising prices of basic goods have made her life increasingly difficult.
“I sell cereal made from corn but the price of corn has really gone up. Now, I don’t have many customers and it’s becoming difficult to feed my own family,” she said, as men sat nearby on plastic lawn chairs in the sand listening to news about the election on portable radios.
Sall, 50, a former prime minister who ran Wade’s last campaign in 2007, is a geologist by training who worked for years under Wade. The two, though, had a subsequent falling out and during the campaign Wade referred to Sall as an apprentice who had not yet taken in “the lessons of his mentor.”
Wade himself first took office in 2000 after his predecessor graciously conceded in a historic moment for Senegal. He easily won re-election in 2007, but has seen his popularity suffer amid soaring costs of living and unemployment. When he cast his ballot last month in the first round of balloting, some voters even booed him at the poll shouting: “Old man, get lost.”
Whereas most African countries began holding elections post-independence in the 1960s, the Senegalese first cast their ballots 164 years ago starting in 1848 when France gave its territory the right to elect a deputy to the French parliament.
Associated Press writers Rukmini Callimachi and Tomas Faye contributed to this report.
Krista Larson can be reached at www.twitter.com/klarsonafrica.
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
Mandela is accompanied by his former wife Winnie, moments after his release from prison February 11, 1990 after serving 27 years in jail. (Reuters)
In this February, 1990 photo, shortly after his release from 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela, gives the black power salute to the 120,000 supporters packing Soccer City stadium in Soweto, near Johannesburg. (AP Photo)
Nelson Mandela showed his passport in February 19, 1990, shortly after his release from prison. The South African government authorized an application for himself and his wife Winnie - (Juda Ngwenya / Reuters)
In this July 27, 1991 photo, Cuban President Fidel Castro, and Nelson Mandela gesture during the celebration of the "Day of the Revolution" in Matanzas, Cuba. (AP Photo)
In this July 4, 1993 photo, President Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela listen during Fourth of July ceremonies in Philadelphia during which Clinton presented the Philadelphia Liberty Medal to the African National Congress president and South African President F.W. de Klerk. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)
President of the African National Congress Nelson Mandela acknowledges cheers from the crowd as he prepares to unveil the ANC's official election platform in 1994. (AP Photo/David Brauchli)
African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela greeted residents of Mmabatho in March 1994, during a visit after the nominal homeland came under South African control following the ousting of the former President Lucas Mangope. (Reuters/Howard Burditt)
South African President Nelson Mandela smiles with actor Sidney Poitier at a press conference in Cape Town in 1996. Poitier played Mandela in the film "One Man, One Vote" (AP Photo / Sasa Kralj)
South African President Nelson Mandela waves to crowds as he sits next to Queen Elizabeth II in a an open carriage on the way to Buckingham Palace.(AP/Louisa Buller)
Chairman of the Constitutional Assembly Cyril Ramaphosa, left, holds up a copy of the country's constitution which was signed by President Nelson Mandela, in December 1996. (AP Photo / Adil Bradlow / POOL)
Nelson Mandela at a news conference in Johannesburg in February 2000. (AP Photo / Denis Farrell)
South African rugby captain Francois Pienaar, right, received the Rugby World Cup trophy from President Nelson Mandela also wearing a South African rugby shirt, after South Africa defeated New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup , in 1995. (AP Photo / Ross Setford)