Advertisement

Ahead of Local Elections in Senegal, Religious Leaders Urge “calm, restraint, respect”

Religious leaders in Senegal. Credit: Courtesy Photo

Religious leaders in Senegal have, in a collective statement, appealed for “calm, restraint and respect for others” amid tensions ahead of local elections scheduled to take place next month.

At a joint press conference organized Monday, December 20, faith-based leaders in Senegal comprising Catholic Bishops, Imams and Muslim scholars (Ulemas) called on all stakeholders to “stand together, so as not to compromise peace in Senegal.”

In their collective statement obtained by ACI Africa, the religious leaders highlight the significance of the polls saying, “Our country is moving towards the holding of territorial elections, commonly known as local elections, scheduled for Sunday 23 January 2022. This is a very important turning point in the life of our Nation in all its components. Therefore, ensuring that they run smoothly is a major challenge for every citizen.”

They add, “At present, some citizens are organizing and mobilizing themselves within political parties, coalitions and other movements, to legitimately assert their ambitions to be elected to the head of local authorities as mayors, presidents of departmental councils or councilors.”

“We reiterate our call for calm, restraint and respect for others. With all, we say: No to violence,” religious leaders in Senegal say, and add, “This country belongs to us. It is our duty to protect it, to contribute to its development and to its influence. In the diversity of our opinions and choices, let us remain serene, peaceful and respectful.”

Advertisement

They invite citizens to remain “calm and serene in the face of the challenges that such a stage in the life of our Nation brings.”

“It is clear that in such circumstances, legitimate political rivalries can quickly turn into serious conflicts that can lead to regrettable actions against the peace and stability of our country, if we are not careful,” the religious leaders in Senegal caution.

The elections, which were initially scheduled to take place in 2019 are to be followed by legislative elections. 

Tension has been mounting in the West African country as a group of about 20 opposition leaders launched a large coalition to challenge the ruling party of President Macky Sall.

Last month, several opposition coalitions denounced the rejection of their lists in various localities of the country,  RFI reported

More in Africa

Opposition leaders, Ousmane Sonko, Barthélémy Dias, and Elhadji Malick Gakou were arrested following violence between their supporters and the police in Dakar, the capital of Senegal.

In their December 20 collective statement read out by the Secretary General of the Conference of Catholic Bishops in Senegal, Fr. Augustin Name Thiaw, religious leaders in the country say through the local elections, Senegalese “will proceed to the renewal of the mandates of our local elected representatives, by choosing those who will have the grace and responsibility to preside over the destinies of our local communities for the next five (5) years.”

To ensure the elections are peaceful, faith-based leaders in Senegal invite “all the candidates in these territorial elections, those of the presidential party, the opposition, as well as the civil party to respect people and institutions, both in their speeches and in their actions.”

They further “appeal to the conscience of all citizens, especially political actors, to adopt responsible behavior in view of credible, transparent and peaceful elections.”

“No one should endanger the life and stability of our nation through words or behavior that incite violence,” religious leaders in Senegal add.

Advertisement

Given the stakes of the local elections, the religious leaders call on stakeholders to be concerned about “the harmonious development of their respective localities, with a view to collaborating with all the human resources of their area, without exception, for the good and interest of the people.”

“The main challenge of these local elections is to promote the inclusive and participatory development of our country, starting from the grassroots, i.e. the local communities,” they noted, and go on to highlight some principles and values, which candidates should take into account in their political activities.

The religious leaders remind candidates of the “acceptance of politics as a commitment to the service of the city, the duty of truth, transparency and credibility and respect for people and institutions.”

They also call for the “promotion of dialogue, peace and social cohesion, commitment to the common good, commitment to justice, equity and mutual respect, commitment to respect for laws and regulations and the commitment to respect the truth of the ballot box.”

The leaders further invite candidates to reject “any social, religious or ethnic discrimination and any manipulation or buying of consciences.”

(Story continues below)

They invite the people of God in Senegal to “turn to God, in fervent prayer, to entrust our country and its inhabitants to him.”

“May his almighty goodness remove from us all evil and divisive spirits. May the will of God be manifested in the free choice of the people. May God, the Creator of the world, grant us concord and peace. May he bless Senegal,” religious leaders in the West African nation implore in their December 20 collective statement.