DAKAR (Reuters) - Senegal’s President Abdoulaye Wade late on Wednesday offered two key rivals cabinet jobs in exchange for working with him in the run up to elections in February, but both men’s parties immediately rejected the offer.
The octogenarian president is seeking re-election despite rivals saying he should be barred from taking part, and tensions are escalating steadily in a country that has already seen violent protests over the vote.
Speaking on state television, Wade offered Ousmane Tanor Dieng and Moustapha Niasse, leading figures in the opposition Benno Siggil Senegal coalition, jobs as ministers of state “with all the benefits” that come with the job.
“But I clarify that this is not at all a government of national unity,” he said.
“When you hit an impasse you have to stop and think. It would be useful for the opposition today to join me for the rest of my mandate so we can ... work together,” he said, before adding that he was sure of winning re-election.
Senegal’s opposition parties remain divided and have so far failed to come up with a joint candidate.
But frustrations caused by the high cost of living and rolling power cuts have galvanised a broader anti-Wade camp, bringing together rights groups, musicians and ordinary citizens.
Helene Tine, a spokesperson for Niasse’s AFP party, rejected Wade’s offer and said he would have to bear the responsibility for the consequences of his time in power alone.
“If he wants peaceful elections, all he has to do is decide not to stand as it is not allowed by the constitution.”
Absoulaye Vilane, a spokesman for Dieng’s PS party, also rejected the offer as “a diversion”.
Wade came to power in 2000 and secured a second term in office in 2007. His opponents say he is barred from standing for re-election due to a two-term limit for Senegal’s leaders.
However, Wade’s camp argues that changes to the constitution in 2001 mean that his first term should not count and he is therefore eligible to stand for re-election.
Senegal is not rich in resources but has long been a model democracy in the region and is a strategic partner for diplomacy and security cooperation, especially for former colonial power France and the United States.