Wade sworn in as dictators, statesmen look on

 Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade has been inaugurated before a crowd of 60 000 including more than 20 African heads of state, among them statesmen and dictators.

The 80-year-old statesman, who won a second five-year term in February elections, raised his right hand on Tuesday and swore to uphold Senegal’s constitution. Folk songs from the African nation followed as the crowd watched and applauded, decked out in yellow and blue, the colours of Wade’s ruling party.

In attendance were Muammar Gaddafi, Libya’s flamboyant dictator who recently celebrated 30 years of rule, as well as Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak. Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was there, as was Colonel Ely Ould Mohamed Vall, the leader of a military junta which led a coup in Mauritania two years ago, then turned over the country to a democratically elected government.

“We have shown the world that in Africa, as in all the world’s major democracies, we can wake up on the morning following an election and count votes instead of counting bodies,” Wade said in his inaugural speech.

International election monitors declared the elections free and transparent, although a coalition of opposition candidates said there was evidence of fraud. Two leading candidates filed lawsuits, claiming fraud at specific polling stations.

Unlike most African polls, the campaign and the days following the February. 25 election were relatively free of violence.

Wade ran against a field of 14 contenders in the poll and was more than a decade older than the oldest of his competitors. His age has earned him the nickname “Gorgui”, a Wolof word meaning old man – a term of affection and respect, which he used to his advantage on campaign posters.

Among the most stable of African nations, Senegal has long been seen as an oasis of political calm on a continent plagued by coups, totalitarian regimes and corrupt governments.