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Last Updated: Monday, 25 July 2005, 14:36 GMT 15:36 UK
Is Senegal's 'model democracy' tarnished?
By Tidiane Sy
BBC News, Dakar

Former Senegalese PM Idrissa Seck, waving as he goes for police questioning
Idrissa Seck was seen as favourite to succeed President Wade
Senegal's former Prime Minister Idrissa Seck has been charged with undermining state security in a case which raises many questions about the independence of the judiciary in what is seen as one of Africa's model democracies.

When they voted for President Abdoulaye Wade in 2000, Senegalese citizens were expecting more transparency, more social justice and better governance than during the 40 years of rule by the Socialist Party (PS).

During his years of struggle against the PS, Mr Wade was charged with various offences, which he said were politically based, and often went on hunger strike to demand his freedom.

But analysts now fear that he is using the police to sideline a potential rival in forthcoming elections.

Dangerous CDs

Mr Seck was questioned by police for eight days over corruption allegations, which he denied.

Then new, far more serious, charges were introduced - but not made public - and he was transferred to Dakar central prison, sparking further clashes between Mr Seck's supporters and the police.

President Abdoulaye Wade and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
President Wade is backed by western leaders
"We are sad and disappointed. Our client is being kept hostage," said one of Mr Seck's lawyers, Boucounta Diallo, regretting that the case is being "politicised".

Mr Seck was instrumental in Mr Wade's 2000 election victory, but fell from grace within the ruling Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS) after his name was mentioned once too often as a potential candidate in presidential elections in 2007.

The day before his arrest - but after Mr Wade had gone on national television to imply that Mr Seck had inflated a public works contract in his home town of Thies - the former prime minister made it clear that he wanted to return to the political big-time after parliamentary elections in 2006.

"I am definitely a candidate to lead the list of the PDS, if I am chosen to; and I am sure if the party members are asked democratically, they'll vote for me," said the 45-year-old.

"But if I am prevented from it in an arbitrary way, my elder brother ATT [Amadou Toumani Toure, president of neighbouring Mali] has shown me that one can lead victoriously a coalition without being a member of any of its components," he warned.

And he went further, releasing two CDs - one while he was in police custody - hinting that he would in turn reveal conversations that Mr Wade and members of his family would prefer to remain secret.

President's vision

Statements such as these surely accelerated the arrest of a man who, only 18 months ago, was at the heart of power in Senegal and the de facto PDS leader.

The case highlights the hostility, some even say the hatred, different factions of the party have been nurturing for each other over many years.

[Wade] could face the anger of those same young men and women who cheerfully applauded him
Newspaper editorial
Mr Seck's fall began in April 2004 when he was sacked from his position as prime minister, over allegations of rivalry between him and Mr Wade.

Yet when Mr Seck was appointed, he told the media that he knew the president so well that he did not even need directions to "transform Wade's vision" into concrete acts, claiming to be an embodiment of the president's vision.

Nevertheless, accusations of rivalry between him and the Senegalese president became so persistent that the separation was inevitable.

In his camp, people saw this first rift as the result of the work of a rival PDS faction.

They alleged that the anti-Seck camp managed to convince Mr Wade that the man he called his "son" was indeed preparing a party coup to evict him first from the PDS leadership, then to make sure his own men control parliament after the 2006 elections and finally clear his own way to the presidential palace, in 2007.

Turmoil

The fall-out between the two men deepened when Mr Wade recalled ex-party members opposed to Mr Seck.

These men and women are now in key positions at the presidential palace or in government, and two of them are heading the services directly dealing with the case: Justice Minister Chiekh Tidiane Sy and Interior Minister Ousmane Ngom.

Police disperse Mr Seck's supporters outside Dakar's central prison
Mr Seck's transfer to prison angered his supporters
Mr Ngom was for years considered as a potential heir to Mr Wade, 79, before being expelled and setting up his own party, because he did not accept being sidelined by Mr Seck.

Amid all this political turmoil, most people now simply want the police and the judiciary to be allowed to work independently and without any pressure, to find out if Mr Seck is guilty or not.

Many still wonder whether he would have been exposed and investigated if he was still in government?

Analysts say Mr Wade must answer questions such as these to show his countrymen and the international community that he remains the "model" he is thought to be.

"If Wade allows the judiciary to bring to light the truths about the Thies public works contracts, and acts severely against those found guilty, he will surely go smoothly to the next elections, but if he fails to - he could face the anger of those same young men and women who cheerfully applauded him" after his 2000 victory, the daily newspaper Wal-fadjri wrote, in an editorial that summed up the thoughts of many political analysts.


SEE ALSO:
Senegal police probe ex-premier
15 Jul 05 |  Africa
Country profile: Senegal
31 Dec 04 |  Country profiles


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