Abdoulaye Wade (born May 29, 1926) is the third and current President of Senegal, in office since 2000. He is also the Secretary-General of the Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS) and has led the party since it was founded in 1974. A long-time opposition leader, he ran for President four times, beginning in 1978, before he was elected in 2000.
Life before politics
Wade was born in Kébémer, Senegal; officially, he was born in 1926, although some claim he was born several years earlier, and the record-keeping of the time is not considered particularly reliable. He studied and taught law at the lycée Condorcet in France. He holds two doctorates in law and economics. He was also dean of the law and economics faculty at the University of Dakar in Senegal. He is currently married to Viviane Wade and has one son, Karim, the former head of the national agency of the Islamic Organization Conference who since May 2009 has served as the Minister of State for International Cooperation, Urban and Regional Planning, Air Transport, and Infrastructure, and a daughter, Sindjely, a Special Assistant to the President who has participated in many Paris-Dakar rallies.
At a summit of the Organization of African Unity in Mogadishu in 1974, Wade told President Léopold Sédar Senghor that he wanted to start a new party, and Senghor agreed to this. The PDS was founded on 31 July 1974. The party—initially intended as a Labour party—adopted liberalism in 1976 due to the introduction of a law permitting the existence of only three parties with three distinct ideologies, two of which were taken by other parties (liberalism was therefore the only remaining option). Wade first ran for President in February 1978 against Senghor, taking 17.38% of the vote. Senghor gave Wade the nickname “Diombor” (Wolof for hare). Also in 1978, Wade was elected to the National Assembly, where he served until 1980. Subsequently he ran in the presidential elections of 1983 and 1988, taking second place each time, behind Senghor’s successor Abdou Diouf. Following the 1988 election, he was arrested due to protests against the results and received a suspended sentence. Subsequently he went to France, but returned in 1990.
In April 1991, Wade and four other PDS members joined a national unity government together with the ruling Socialist Party (PS); Wade became Minister of State without portfolio. In October 1992, he and the other PDS ministers quit the government due to complaints about the manner in which the PS was said to control the government. In the February 1993 presidential election, Wade again took second place, with 32% of the vote, behind Diouf, who won with 58%. Following the May 1993 killing of Constitutional Council Vice-President Babacar Sèye, Wade, along with other PDS leaders, faced police questioning. On October 1, Wade, his wife, and two PDS members of the National Assembly (Abdoulaye Faye and Ousmane Ngom), were charged with complicity in the murder, although they were not held in custody or put on trial. Following riots in February 1994, Wade was arrested along with many others for allegedly threatening state security. The charge of complicity in Sèye’s murder was dismissed in May 1994, and Wade and his co-defendants began a hunger strike on June 30. He and his co-defendants were released on July 4, and the remaining charges were dismissed on August 30, 1994.
Wade rejoined the government as Minister of State in March 1995, but he and the other PDS ministers left again in March 1998.Although he was elected to the National Assembly in the February 1998 parliamentary election, he announced his resignation from the National Assembly in late July 1998, saying that there were “enough deputies to do the job in my place”.
2000 election and first term
Wade subsequently spent a year in France, returning to Senegal on October 27, 1999. In the first round of the 2000 presidential election, held on February 27, he again took second place, receiving 31% of the vote, but for the first time, Diouf did not win a first round majority, and consequently a second round was held on March 19. Wade won this round with 58.49% of the vote, having received the support of candidates from the first round, including third place candidate Moustapha Niasse. Wade became President on April 1, 2000 and appointed Niasse as his Prime Minister shortly afterwards. Wade initially cohabited with the PS, which held a majority in the legislature until the PDS and its allies (theSopi Coalition) won a majority in the April 2001 parliamentary election.
2007 election and second term
On October 15, 2006, Wade was nominated as presidential candidate of the PDS for the February 2007 presidential election. One of Wade’s opponents in this election was his former prime minister Idrissa Seck, who was once considered Wade’s protégé, but was arrested in 2005.Final results released on March 11, 2007, showed Wade winning in the first round with 55.9% of the vote, far ahead of his nearest opponents, Seck with about 15% and Socialist Party leader Ousmane Tanor Dieng with about 13.6%. Dieng and another opposition candidate, Abdoulaye Bathily, filed appeals regarding the election, but these were rejected by the Constitutional Council. Wade was sworn in for his second term on April 3 at the Leopold Sedar Senghor Stadium in Dakar, with many African leaders and about 60,000 spectators in attendance.
The main opposition parties did not accept Wade’s 2007 victory and disputed his legitimacy as President; they boycotted elections to the National Assembly and the re-established Senate later in the year. Wade conclusively stated in an interview published by Le Soleil on May 19, 2008 that there was no longer any possibility of dialogue with the opposition unless it recognized him as the legitimate President. “Let them do what they want, it doesn’t bother me,” he said of the opposition, “so long as they respect law and order.”
At the July 2007 African Union summit in Accra, Ghana, Wade supported quick formation of the proposed United States of Africa and said: “If we fail to unite, we will become weak, and if we live isolated in countries that are divided, we face the risk of collapsing in the face of stronger and united economies.”
In July 2008, the National Assembly approved a constitutional amendment increasing the length of the presidential term to seven years, as it was prior to the adoption of the 2001 constitution. This extension would not apply to Wade’s 2007–2012 term, but Minister of Justice Madické Niangstressed on this occasion that Wade could potentially run for re-election in 2012 if he was still healthy. Later, on September 17, 2009, Wade confirmed that he planned to run for a third term in 2012 “if God gives me a long life”.
He has also been criticized for excessive spending on what have been described as “prestige projects”. This includes commissioning a 160+ foot bronze statue (the African Renaissance Monument), for which Wade claims he is entitled to 35% of all tourist profits it generates because of the intellectual property for conceiving the idea.
In a parallel controversy, Wade has been criticized by Christian bishops in Senegal for publicly denying the divinity of Jesus Christ, comparing him to the statues found in the African Renaissance Monument, after local imams expressed their opposition to the monument. He later regretted that his comments had caused religious offense to Christians.
Wade also received criticism in 2009 for a “goodbye present” he reportedly gave to a departing IMF official after the two had had dinner. The present turned out to be a bag of money worth almost US$200,000. Widespread speculation and criticism have centered on the possibility that Wade is grooming his son Karim to succeed him.
There have also been allegations that Wade had been involved in Freemasonry.