Senegal leader's son defends job after protests

AP News
Posted: Jul 04, 2011 9:00 AM
Senegal leader's son defends job after protests

The unpopular son of Senegal's leader says he doesn't intend to inherit the presidency as critics fear, issuing a letter to the nation after protests called for him to leave his government job.

President Abdoulaye Wade has been in power for more than a decade, and some accuse the 85-year-old of trying to pave the way for his eldest child, Karim, to succeed him.

In an open letter issued late Sunday, Karim Wade angrily denied the allegations and blamed politicians "aided by some journalists" for the resentment toward him.

"With us, there is only one way to gain power," he said. "Power is not inherited, it is won by the ballot box."

Karim Wade, a minister of state, wrote that he strongly opposes the idea of a monarchy-style system of succession, and he said that was not the intent of a recent proposed constitutional change.

That change would have created a vice presidential post, which critics said was earmarked for him and would have made it easier for him to succeed his father.

"Never in the history of Senegal has a public figure received as many blows, defamatory remarks and insults," Karim Wade said, referring to himself.

Last week, a coalition of 60 organizations in the West African nation vowed to continue protests unless the younger Wade resigns from his government position.

The president agreed on June 23 to cancel a proposed change to the constitution after massive street protests that marked the biggest challenge to his 11-year rule and threatened to derail a country known as one of the most stable in the region.

In his letter, Karim Wade said the idea of passing down power through a family, as in a monarchy, "is an insult to Senegal.

"This confusion must stop! This intoxication must stop! This injustice must cease," he said in the letter.

Senegal is a moderate Muslim nation with one of the most established democracies in the region, but the country is facing its worst power outages in a decade and the cost of living has spiraled. There is growing discontent over the octogenarian president's attempt to run for a third term, as well as the increasing influence of his son.

Once a symbol of the opposition, Wade came to power in a landmark election hailed for being one of the first peaceful transfers of power on the continent. Outgoing President Abdou Diouf is held up throughout Africa for stepping down without a fight, and for telephoning Wade on the night of his defeat to congratulate his opponent.

Since then, Wade has strayed from his roots, going the way of other entrenched African leaders who have used control of state institutions to prolong their stay in office. In October, he named Karim Wade as energy minister.

He set off a wave of criticism in 2009 when he announced he planned to run for a third term in 2012, using a loophole in the electoral law to circumvent the constitution's two-term limit.