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Senegal tense ahead of Wade’s return

Dakar - Senegalese security forces were braced 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, 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.

Incumbent Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade holds up ballot papers before voting at a polling station during presidential polls in Dakar in 2012. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly. Credit: REUTERS

His return - a show of support for 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 witholding 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 Morocco's largest city on Thursday.

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

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 daily newspaper Le Populaire splashing on “A Friday heavy with menace”.

The media described security forces as being in a “state of high-alert” over the visit.

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

Wade has said 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.

“I'm not a man to start a coup d'etat, not at my age... I have the fortune of being able to control my activists and supporters,” he told Paris-based television news channel France 24 on Thursday.

“They do what I tell them to. If I said 'go to the palace' they would. But if I wanted that, I could make it happen without even coming to Dakar.”

Wade's son Karim, 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.

Senegalese authorities accuse him of using corrupt means to acquire a fortune of 117 billion CFA francs (178 million euros, $246 million) when he was a so-called “super minister” in his father's cabinet.

Sapa-AFP

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