I Said It. Now I Unsay It.

That’s the best translation of the Wolof phrase “Ma waxoone waxeet.”
That’s what Senegal’s President Abdoulaye Wade commented last summer
when he tried to change the constitution to allow him to run for a third
term. He had previously promised not to run for another mandate, and
when a journalist reminded him of that, he replied, yes, “I said that,
but now I un-say it.”

The price paid for what amounts to a broken promise seems highly
instructive. Wade was defeated yesterday in a dramatic runoff vote, which,
on Saturday night, you’d have been hard-pressed to find any Senegalese
not so nervous about the outcome that they’d been willing to predict it.
But late Sunday night, Wade conceded to candidate Macky Sall.

Today Senegalese have rediscovered their smile. This joy hasn’t been
seen since the victory of Senegal’s national soccer team over France in
the first round of the 2002 World Cup.  (Tweet on 3.26.12)

I scoured more of the on-line chatter, and here are a few typical
responses to Wade’s concession:

What time is it? Time for change in Senegal.

What a wake-up call to leaders across Africa.

Today I feel proud to be from Africa and to be born in a country that has been setting an example for democracy. Thank you Senegal.

Africa will have another former Head of State alive and not exiled.  Used to be a rarity. Progress.

Also posted was this fact, and given the generation that is leaving
power, it seems highly relevant.

Senegal’s president-elect Macky Sall is the first West African born
after colonialism in 1960 to ride the ballot box into office.

Former State Department spokesman PJ Crowley pointed out that Wade
worked hard to run for a third term, and the results of the vote don’t quite match his efforts.

President Abdoulaye Wade’s attempt to cling to power in Senegal has
ironically strengthened democracy with his apparent runoff defeat.

One of the biggest criticisms many Senegalese had for Abdoulaye Wade was
that it seemed clear he wanted to establish some kind of dynastic rule.
Last summer, Wade tried to amend the constitution to allow for a
vice-president. Most suspect that would’ve been his son, Karim, who as
a key minister in his father’s government, controls around 40% of
Senegal’s budget. That prompted this query:

What next for Karim Wade? Will Senegal’s ex “Minister of Earth and Sky”
face investigation or trial like Gamal and Saif?

And finally, on the cynical but realistic side, this was a comment on
the BBC program, Africa Have Your Say that got a lot of retweets:

How long will we continue to applaud African leaders for stepping down
after an election loss?

Fair point. And yet, today, we talk about it and write about it


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