Senegal Opposition To Hold Protest Despite Ban

Published February 17, 2012 3:54PM (EST)

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Senegalese riot police fired tear gas at protesters Friday on a main commercial boulevard in the capital, after the country's opposition went ahead with a protest in defiance of a government ban.

The country's opposition leaders are calling for the departure of 85-year-old President Abdoulaye Wade. They went ahead with the rally because they consider the ban unconstitutional, according to Abdoul Aziz Diop, spokesman for the M23 coalition of opposition parties.

Senegal is just a week away from a much-anticipated presidential election and electoral law allows candidates to hold rallies in the pre-election period. Opposition demonstrations over the past two weeks have often turned violent and led to vandalism, with crowds setting fire to tires, buses and the wooden tables used by market women to sell their wares.

On Avenue William Ponty, police lobbed tear gas at the small groups of youths, pushing them back into side streets. Security forces also had cordoned off Place de l'Independance located just 500 yards (meters) from the neoclassical presidential palace. The demonstrators had said they would meet in the central square.

On Tuesday, when the opposition last tried to hold a rally in Place de l'Independance police shot gas grenades out of a tank-like truck.

A 49-year-old woman caught in the scrum fainted, and was dragged to safety by the employees of a travel agency located on the square.

No serious injuries were reported, but four people have been killed in other protests since January, when the nation's highest court ruled that Wade, who will turn 86 this spring, had the right to run for a third term, despite a constitutional revision which imposed a two-term maximum.

By Salon Staff

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