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An Open Letter to Abdoulaye Wade: Vous n’êtes pas l’état


An Open Letter to Abdoulaye Wade: Vous n'êtes pas l'état

A voter in a suburb of Dakar. (Rebecca Blackwell, New York Times/Associated Press)

So, you’re Abdoulaye Wade, the President of Senegal, a country that many can point to and say “there is a reasonably stable African state.” But like so many of the continent’s leaders you decide that you and the country’s success are inextricably bound. Your second (and constitutionally-mandated last) term is set to expire. What do you do?

Well, the megalomaniac’s playbook is clear: Constitution (and previous promises) be damned! You run for a third term.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the re-coronation: Your country’s people (whom you believed to be your loyal subjects) went to the polls. They voted. And they did not give you enough votes to allow you to declare victory. And now you face a runoff that many predict you cannot win against former Prime Minister Macky Sall. I suppose you deserve some modicum of credit for admitting that the runoff is necessary rather than engage in some sort of chicanery though I suppose the chicanery card is still there to be played.

I fear that your people are about to relearn lessons they certainly already knew, lessons they gleaned from Kenya and Cote d’Ivoire and Zimbabwe and too many other places in recent years. Like so many incumbent presidents, you believe that you are the state and that the state is you. But you are not the state. And Senegal is so much more than you. Perhaps you will win the runoff. Perhaps you will lose. Perhaps there will be no violence either way. But such speculation never should have been necessary.



Derek Catsam

Derek Catsam is a Professor of history and Kathlyn Cosper Dunagan Professor in the Humanities at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin. He is also Senior Research Associate at Rhodes University. Derek writes about race and politics in the United States and Africa, sports, and terrorism. He is currently working on books on bus boycotts in the United States and South Africa in the 1940s and 1950s and on the 1981 South African Springbok rugby team's tour to the US. He is the author of three books, dozens of scholarly articles and reviews, and has published widely on current affairs in African, American, and European publications. He has lived, worked, and travelled extensively throughout southern Africa. He writes about politics, sports, travel, pop culture, and just about anything else that comes to mind.

Areas of Focus:
Africa; Zimbabwe; South Africa; Apartheid