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‘We Feel Betrayed’ – Why Anger Has Engulfed Senegal

Senegal appears to be having an identity crisis - its citizens are proud of the fact that it is considered one of West Africa's most stable democracies, and many are outraged that this reputation is now on the line.

"We feel betrayed by Macky Sall," say a group of imams meeting in a mosque in the capital, Dakar, about the political crisis that hit the country a week ago when MPs backed President Sall's decision to delay this month's presidential election until December.

"The president must review this. It's unacceptable," explains Ismael Ndiaye, the general secretary of Senegal's League of Imams.

"It never happened before. Senegal never had a presidential election delayed. We feel betrayed. We feel misunderstood."

Islam is the predominant religion in Senegal - and comments such as these from influential Muslim leaders, who have mediated to resolve previous political crises, carry huge weight.

Their blunt words reflect the wave of anger gripping the country as protesters take to the streets.

President Sall has justified his move, saying time is needed to resolve a dispute over who is eligible to stand as a presidential candidate after several opposition contenders were barred.

But those on the streets see the postponement as a way for Mr Sall to cling on to power beyond the end of his second term on 2 April.

In his first interview since the announcement, President Sall denied that was his intention.

"I am absolutely seeking for nothing except to leave a country in peace and stability," he told the Associated Press over the weekend.

"I don't want to leave behind a country that will immediately plunge into major difficulties."

These words ring hollow to his critics given his stance before his election in 2012, when he strongly objected to then-President Abdoulaye Wade seeking a third term.

"A president cannot extend his term of office. It's not possible," Mr Sall, who once served as Mr Wade's prime minister, said during the 2011 election campaign.

"He can't extend his term by even one day, otherwise the country will be plunged into chaos because the people would not recognise his legitimacy and there would no longer be authority in the country."