By Katim S Touray, PhD
His Excellency, President Macky SALL of the Republic of Senegal
Avenue Léopold Sédar Senghor,
Your Excellency, President Sall,
First, allow me to express my sincere condolences to you and our relatives, the good people of the Republic of Senegal on the sad loss of lives, and my sympathies to those injured and/or who have lost property in recent disturbances in your country. May Allah, Subhanahu wa ta’ala (SWT) grant the deceased eternal Jannah, quickly heal the injured, replace the lost properties, and bring back peace to your country.
Your Excellency, I am Gambian, but I am also writing as your brother and fellow Saloum Saloum. I come from Ballanghar in Saloum, The Gambia, but I have uncles in Dinguiraye in the Département de Nioro du Rip. In addition, one of my sisters is married in Ngayène Sabakh (Département de Nioro du Rip), and another is married in Nganda (Département de Kaffrine). As such, I have a moral duty to speak up on the recent disturbances and ongoing crisis in Senegal. As we say in Wolof, Your Excellency, Mbokka ma chi boole. I am concerned because we (Gambia and Senegal) are blood relatives.
The recent tragic disturbances in Senegal came after the leader of the opposition Party PASTEF, Ousmane Sonko (who is also the Mayor of Ziguinchor) was acquitted of rape charges but convicted and sentenced to 2 years in prison for corrupting young people. As a result, Senegal exploded! Never, in the wildest imaginations of many of us would we have expected Senegal, a beacon of hope, an island of peace and Teranga (hospitality), in a sea of conflict and strife in Africa, especially the Sahel region, would come to this.
The recent protests, Your Excellency, follow similarly motivated pro-Sonko protests in 2021 in which an estimated 13 lives were lost.
It should not have come to this, Your Excellency. You have achieved a lot for Senegal — and Africa — during your political career. Early in your first term as President, you articulated your vision for Senegal in your Plan Sénégal Emergent (PSE — Plan for an Emerging Senegal [PES]). You achieved a lot in implementing the PSE, including the new Aéroport international Blaise Diagne (AIBD), and the transformation of the formerly sleepy Diamniadio into a hub city to ease the pressure on Dakar, the Capital of Senegal.
You achieved all of these during over two decades of public service. Between April 2000 and May 2003, you served as Special Advisor for Energy and Mines to President Abdoulaye Wade. In addition, you held two ministerial positions, you served as a Member of the National Assembly of Senegal, you were elected President of the National Assembly, and you were Mayor of Fatick, your hometown.
Your Excellency, you continued your rise to power in July 2004, when you were appointed as Prime Minister, a position you served in until June 2007. You have served as President of Senegal for the past 11 years, starting in April 2012. During this time, you also served as Chairperson (2015–2016) of ECOWAS, the regional economic grouping of 15 West African States, and as Chairperson (2022–2023) of the African Union, with 55 member States from Africa.
It is clear, Your Excellency, that you have been incredibly blessed, coming as you do from humble beginnings. On the other hand, the recent tragic riots in Senegal show that you risk tarnishing your — so far — great legacy. Senegal has since Independence in 1960 been a bastion of democracy and peaceful coexistence, a country of dialog. However, events in the last few weeks have caused many to wonder whether Senegal, the country of Teranga (hospitality) has, under your leadership, lost its way.
Your Excellency, after over two decades of your service to Senegal and Africa, it is time for you to move on. You should have confidence that your legacy will last for a long time, if not forever. You should also be thankful for, and content with what Allah, SWT has blessed you with, and accept that there is nothing you can do for Senegal that you have not yet done. Besides, Senegal does not need a President who thinks he or she is indispensable because that would be an affront to the capacity of Senegalese to manage their affairs.
Your Excellency, I urge you to reconsider your attitude to the opposition protests. For this reason, I am glad to learn that you plan to address the nation of Senegal on June 25. I urge you in that address to adopt a reconciliatory attitude toward the recent tragic events in the country, and as many have called for, inform Senegalese that you will not run for a third term in office.
I hope, Your Excellency, that Mayor Sonko and other opposition groups can be encouraged to join the national dialog you recently launched. Furthermore, I suggest that the national dialog in the end proposes and that you accept, a way forward for Senegal including withdrawing the cases and nullifying the convictions against Mayor Sonko.
I also hope that the national dialog proposes that protestors arrested in the recent tragic events, and security personnel involved in controlling the protestors should be granted amnesty. I also suggest that you, as well as members of your party and administration, should be granted immunity from prosecution for any and all acts committed up to, but not after, the declaration of that amnesty. I believe that Senegalese have the heart to forgive, and that what Senegal has in the future is much more than whatever damage has been done in the recent disturbances.
Finally, Your Excellency, I would like to mention an Open Letter I wrote to former President Yahya Jammeh of the Gambia in 1999. I suggested to him that he should listen to those who criticize him constructively or suffer the fate of the former Shah of Iran and former Emperor Bokassa of the Central African Republic. President Jammeh did not heed my warning and was, with your firm support of The Gambian people, forced out of office 17 years after I wrote my letter to him.
I sincerely hope Your Excellency, that you will listen to the pleas of the many people who are calling on you to declare that you will not run for a third term in office, and that you will engage the Opposition in a dialog to bring the Senegalese family together again. May Allah SWT guide and bless your efforts in that regard.
Dewenati, and Eid Mubarak!
I thank you!