NEARLY a month had passed since the very public “reconciliation” (of sorts) between Senegal President Macky Sall and his once-mentor, former president Abdoulaye Wade.
There was never really any malice between the two men but the undercurrents were strong enough for even a blind man to see that the protégé-mentor, almost father-son, relationship that existed prior to 2008 was a thing of the past.
The falling out, as it were, was a basic thing — when push comes to shove, family will always trump everything else. Especially when that family is your heir-apparent whom you have groomed for the country’s top position.
Back in 2000, when Wade was running for president, Sall practically ran his campaign for him and clinched the post for his mentor. In return, Wade appointed Sall as Minister of Energy, then Minister of the Interior, before installing him as Prime Minister in 2004.
Fast forward to 2008, and Sall is now President of the National Assembly — Senegal’s legislative body. Sall, with his clean crusades, holds a hearing at the assembly on corruption charges against Karim Wade, the son of Abdoulaye Wade, ahead of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Summit that Senegal hosted that year.
Incidentally, this was the summit where Senegal took over as chair of the OIC from Malaysia.
Of course President Wade, not happy with how his protégé had turned against his own flesh and blood, stripped Sall of all his posts within the political party.
As with nearly all politics in Africa, this only ensured that Sall would establish his own splinter party and challenge his former mentor in the 2012 elections, which he then went on to win.
In the meantime, Karim Wade was sentenced to prison time and fined US$230 million (RM962 million).
Halfway through the jail term, Sall decided to pardon Karim Wade but insisted that he paid the fine. Karim fled the country but then tried to stand as a candidate for the 2019 presidential elections even though he was barred from entering the country until the fine was paid.
Sall eventually won another term and did so in a single round, effectively clinching more than 50 per cent of the votes.
In the meantime, the Wade family expressed support for Idrissa Seck, Sall’s closest competitor in this year’s presidential elections. By this time it was no secret in Senegal that President Wade would lend his support to just about anyone else.
However, in early September 2019 the Senegalese held their collective breaths when the imminent inauguration of West Africa’s biggest mosque, the Massalikoul Jinaan, was announced.
The original groundwork, including the granting of prime land to the mosque’s board was made by the president.
But it was only fitting that the opening ceremony be graced also by the current president, as a matter of protocol.
I am sure many late night talks and negotiations were held ahead of the inauguration, to enable both Wade and Sall to not only put aside their political differences for a religious purpose, but also to attempt a reconciliation of sorts.
On Sept 27, when the mosque was inaugurated, both Sall and Wade emerged from the Grand Sheikh’s offices in a bantering mood before speeding off in the same vehicle. It was probably the first time since 2008 that both men were seen in public together.
Two days later, former mayor of Dakar Khalifa Sall (no relation of the president) was released from prison. The courts had found him guilty of corruption and political pundits saw his imprisonment as political — to disqualify him from contending in the 2019 presidential elections.
It is widely believed that the reconciliation was in part responsible for Khalifa Sall’s pardon.
Still left to be resolved is whether Karim Wade’s hefty fine would be forgiven for him to return to the country. This is no small matter, given that US$230 million for any developing country is no mere drop in the ocean.
Senegal is set to produce oil by 2021, and then become one of the world’s largest oil producers based on the reserves that have been discovered.
It was therefore imperative that all these budding political problems go away so that the political masters could concentrate on further developing Senegal.
Shrewd tactician that he is, this is what Macky Sall sought to achieve with the public reconciliation with the 92-year old former president.
Sure enough, President Wade graced the Presidential Palace once again on Sept 12, as a guest of Sall. Their main topic of discussion? What else, but Senegal’s oil and gas industry — that gold nugget up Senegal’s sleeve which is set to put the country onto the world resources map.
The writer is a foreign service officer who writes on international affairs with a particular emphasis on Africa