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Senegal tense as nation awaits ex-president's return

25 April 2014, 17:05

Dakar - Senegalese security forces were braced on Friday for the controversial homecoming of exiled former president Abdoulaye Wade, two years after he lost office in an election marred by violent protests.

Wade, aged 87, who held power from 2000 to 2012, was expected to land in Dakar in the afternoon, aides said, for his first trip back to the west African nation since he moved to France after a bitter defeat to arch rival and current leader Macky Sall.

His return - a show of support his son Karim, who is in custody on multi million-dollar corruption charges - has been delayed by 48 hours after his flight was grounded in Casablanca on Wednesday.

Wade has accused Sall's government of "manoeuvring" against him by deliberately withholding permission for him to land in Dakar in an attempt to disperse the supporters who had planned to welcome him on his arrival.

"I understood a long time ago that Macky Sall did not want this day to happen," he told AFP in the Moroccan capital on Thursday.

Senegal has denied that it was behind the delay, with government spokesperson Abdou Latif Coulibaly pointing to last-minute modifications to the flight manifesto which meant new permits were required.

'Heavy with menace'

Mayoro Faye, of Wade's Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS), said supporters would march from the airport to the party headquarters, where the former head-of-state would deliver a speech at a rally due to go ahead despite being banned by the authorities.

The announcement of Wade's return has dominated headlines since the start of the week, with the media describing security forces as being in a "state of high-alert" over the visit.

Daily newspaper Le Populaire splashed on "A Friday heavy with menace" while Walfadjri, another daily, invoked the 1982 Mel Gibson war drama "A Year of Living Dangerously" with its front page headline speaking of a Friday "de tous les dangers".

Anti-riot police with shields, helmets and batons, have been deployed across Dakar since Wednesday, with protests banned over fears of "public disorder".

Wade told reporters before leaving France that he would respect Senegalese security measures and was not intending to destabilise the Sall regime, but he has also vowed to press on with his outlawed party meeting.

Wade's son Karim, aged 45, whose wealth includes land in Dakar, a fleet of luxury cars and media and finance companies operating across Africa, has been on remand in Dakar for a year and is due to be tried in June.

Senegal authorities accuse him of using corrupt means to acquire a fortune of 117bn CFA francs when he was a so-called "super minister" in his father's cabinet.



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