* Grammy-winning musician backs Wade’s challenger
* Concert would end months-long musical hiatus
* Election run-up marred by deadly riots
By Richard Valdmanis
DAKAR, March 1 (Reuters) - Senegal’s Youssou N’Dour said on Thursday he would relaunch his musical career with a victory concert for Macky Sall if the presidential challenger beats incumbent Abdoulaye Wade in an election run-off this month.
The Grammy-winning N’Dour, co-writer of the 1994 hit single “7 Seconds”, has been one of the most vocal critics of Wade’s controversial decision to run for a third term as head of the West African state, and announced in November he would stop singing to focus on politics.
Declaring his support for Sall on Thursday, N’Dour said he would break his silence with a concert on April 4, Senegal’s Independence Day, if Sall beats his octogenarian opponent.
“I think the moment has come, this moment is very important, and essentially, on April 4, we will be able to sing,” N’Dour told a news conference in the courtyard of Sall’s sprawling villa in an upper-class neighbourhood of Dakar.
After weeks of riots in which at least six people died, the first round of Senegal’s presidential election passed off peacefully on Feb. 26.
Wade won 34.8 percent of votes cast, ahead of the second-placed Sall who won 26.6 percent, but failed to win the absolute majority he had predicted would hand him outright victory.
Sall, an ex-prime minister under Wade, has urged the country’s opposition parties to back him for the run-off which is due on either March 18 or 25.
He thanked N’Dour for backing him.
“Today he confirmed his irreversible choice to fight the campaign, using his resources, his movement, and his popularity, to help the people bring about democratic and peaceful change in the second-round,” Sall said.
He said he and N’Dour had agreed on several priorities for the country - where ordinary people eke out a living on barely a few dollars a day - including lowering the cost of living, boosting energy security, and ending a separatist rebellion in the former tourist region of Casamance.
N’Dour, who has featured in the U.S. and European charts and won a gold-plated Grammy for his 2004 album “Egypt”, launched a bid to run for president himself, but his application was rejected by the country’s top legal body on a technicality.
A successful businessman with his own newspaper, television and radio channel, N’Dour heads up his own grassroots citizen movement and is a longtime critic of Wade. The singer was often spotted taking part in protests in central Dakar in February, many of which descended into clashes between rock-throwing demonstrators and police firing tear gas.
Wade’s decision to run for a third presidential term enraged his opponents who accused him of flouting the constitution which they said limited presidential terms to just two mandates. But Wade said his first term, which started in 2000, pre-dated those rules and so did not count. (Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Andrew Osborn)