Senegal: The French Drop Wade
Were the Wades ready to call in European troops to back their bid for a new ‘monarchy’? According to influential French lawyer and longtime Wade family confidant Robert Bourgi, the president’s son asked him, on June 27, to get the French Army to intervene in the country.
It all started when President Abdoulaye Wade, 85, tried to push through parliament a constitutional reform which would have assured his son Karim, 42, become President upon his death. The reform would have created the position of vice-president and would have allowed the ticket to be elected with only 25% of the vote in the first round rather than in the two-round majority system. On June 23, serious rioting against what the opposition feared was a ‘Constitutional Coup’ set Senegal ablaze and President Wade withdrew his reform.
Bourgi said Karim called him at nearly three o:clock in the morning on June 27, saying the “situation is quasi insurrectional” and warned that “French interests are at stake”. “Uncle” Bourgi refused to use his influence on French President Sarkozy and told Karim “You are panicking. I want you to be a bit more coherent.”
Adding fuel to speculation, former Prime Minister and opposition candidate for the February 2012 presidential elections, Macky Sall, on July 1, accused President Wade of “recruiting mercenaries” to attack the opposition. Sall said the mercenaries are from the Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea and Nigeria. “Four hundred have entered the national territory through the southern border,” he said.
Presidential asociates have vehemently denied all the accusations. “We have enough gendarmes, soldiers and police,” Wade spokesman Serigne Mbacké Ndiaye said, “that we don’t need to ask anybody for aid.” You cannot get any clearer as to the real mission of Senegal’s security forces.
As Wade tried to push through his unpopular constitutional reform he was also doing his best to restore good relations with the French. In a break with his African peers and against his own public opinion, Wade recognized Libya’s rebel Council of Transition and backed NATO’s war against Gaddafi.
On June 9, the Senegalese President became the first African leader to visit the rebel capital, Benghazi. Karim, who has never been elected to office but who holds four ministerial portfolios, was at his father’s side. Their chaperon was the French pseudo philosopher and self-proclaimed foreign minister for the LIbyan crisis Bernard Henri Levy. It was Levy who brought the rebel leaders to see President Sarkozy in Paris and obtain official recognition of the rebellion from the Head of State.
Was the ‘Libya thing’ an attempt by Wade to prepare to ask the French to intervene in Senegal when it became clear his reform would be met by violent opposition? The problem for Wade is apparently neither Robert Bourgi nor French Interior Minister Claude Guéant can stomach Bernard Henri Levy and those two have Sarkozy’s attention.
Another man who sees Levy’s meddling as counter-productive is the real Foreign Minister, Alain Juppé. To hammer home the distance between Wade and Paris, Juppé, on July 7, sided with the opposition calling the constitutional reform “abnormal”. In an allusion to the request for armed intervention, Juppé said it was up to the Senegalese to decide their future. “You don’t change such an important rule a few months from the ballot.” he added. “I believe the authorities understand that by abandoning the reform.”
Abdoulaye Wade’s chances of seducing Sarkozy were slim from the start. He has stung France’s “General Pinocchio” more than once. In April 2010, Wade unilaterally reneged on the 1974 military agreement with France and told the 1200 French troops in his country to get out. “I don’t risk a Coup d’Etat in Senegal.” he said. The French Marines left in June 2010.
He had already angered Sarkozy in 2007 when he took the Dakar Port contract away from the French President’s close and super-rich friend, Vincent Bollaré, and gave it to Dubai Port World. The same company that took the contract for Djibouti away from the French Group.
The French are clearly realigning their pawns in ‘their African sphere of influence’. They put their puppet Alassane Ouattara in Power in Cote d’Ivoire. They are dropping the Wade family. Paris is pulling its Army out of Chad after saving President Deby from rebel offensives twice since 2007. (Very reliable sources tell me Chadian troops are in Libya fighting the rebellion to support Gaddafi). But Paris is leaving its Army in Gabon where the French did not have a problem seeing a son access ‘the thrown’ after his father’s death. But then again, Gabon has oil. Senegal does not.
By George Kazolias
George Kazolias is an American Journalist based in Paris and a Professor of Global Communications at the American University in Paris. He runs the blog kazodaily.