Senegal: President Macky Sall says he won’t run for a third term

Senegal's President Macky Sall announces he will not seek a third term, sparking an open field of candidates for the upcoming presidential election in 2024.


Image : Ludovic MARIN/AFP

On Monday evening, Senegal’s President Macky Sall publicly announced that he will not run for a third term, ending longstanding rumours about his willingness to do so.

“I have decided, after much consideration, not to run for the next presidential election in February 2024, even though the constitution allows it,” he said in a livestreamed address on Facebook.

Macky Sall delivers his livestreamed speech (in French).

Sall has been asked for several months whether or not he will run for a third term but has always refused to comment on the matter.

His silence fuelled political tensions and led to widespread protests last June after his main opponent, Ousmane Sonko, was jailed on charges that his supporters claim were fabricated to sideline him from the 2024 presidential election.

Sonko, who called on his supporters to protest ahead of the presidential speech yesterday, has criticised Sall for the rumours about a third term, stating that it would be unconstitutional.

However, in March of last year, Sall told the French newspaper L’Express that because he changed the length of the mandate from seven to five years in 2016, his first term, which spanned from 2012 to 2019, was “out of range” and should be considered null.

In accordance with this, Sall stated that his decision was not based on the constitution but was purely political, aiming to promote the “unity of the country” after Senegal experienced an unprecedented period of street protests in recent months.

Sall’s decision draws praise

Sall’s decision not to run was welcomed by many human rights associations, which had repeatedly called on the Senegalese government to preserve the country’s long-held respect for democratic traditions following the June protests.

Leaders from Africa and across the globe also greeted Sall’s decision with praise.

“I would like to express my deep appreciation for President Macky Sall and the statesmanship he has shown. His decision represents a very important example for his country and the world,” tweeted UN secretary-general António Guterres.

Ernest Bai Koroma, a former president of Sierra Leone, underlined the importance of the decision for Senegal’s democracy.

Who is in the race for 2024?

Senegal’s next presidential election will be held in February next year, but Sall’s exit means there is not an obvious frontrunner. 

Sall’s announcement that he will not run for a third term did not come with the nomination of a political successor.

The future of his main political opponent, Ousmane Sonko, remains uncertain. He was sentenced to two years in prison for “corrupting” a young woman in June and has been under house arrest since then.

Two other popular opponents, Karim Wade and Khalifa Sall, the son of former President Abdoulaye Wade and the former Mayor of Dakar, respectively, face charges of illicit enrichment, which might also prevent them from running in 2024.

As Senegal heads towards an open election, only a few candidates have come forward to assume Sall’s responsibilities, while the country maintains its position as one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies, projected to experience GDP growth rates of 8.3% and 10.6% in 2023 and 2024 respectively, primarily driven by the commencement of gas production from the northern coast.

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Leo Komminoth

Leo is tech reporter for African Business, based in Dakar, and also works on data visualisations.