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Singer Youssou N'Dour fears for Senegal's future


The world music star Youssou N'Dour has appealed to the international community to prevent a "constitutional coup" in his native Senegal after he was prevented from running in next month's presidential election.

The 52-year old musician made his appeal after Senegal's 85-year old president Abdoulaye Wade was cleared to run for a third term in violation of constitutional term limits. "I appeal to all the forces of this country,  to our African brothers,to the international community, which has expressed its disagreement with this constitutional coup," the singer told Radio France International yesterday. "The fight continues, because God is with the righteous."

A protest  rally is planned for today in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, where the opposition have appealed for "popular resistance" against the increasingly autocratic Mr Wade.

Meanwhile, security at the presidential palace has been increased after a weekend of riots following the high court's decision to back the president's right to run again.  Senegal's opposition has united around an anti-Wade platform calling itself "M23" and has already accused the government of plans to rig the poll on February 26.

The US has joined France in expressing its regret at Mr Wade's decision to ignore term limits, while judges he appointed barred one of his main rivals. The president's camp has argued that term limits introduced in 2001 cannot be applied retroactively to him as his term in office began a year before the law was changed.

"We are concerned that the decision by President Wade to seek a third term ... could jeopardise the decades-long record that Senegal has built up on the continent for democracy, democratic development and political stability," US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns said at the African Union summit in Ethiopia."

A stalwart who once counted Mr N'Dour among his friends, Mr Wade has been pilloried for grandiose projects such as the giant "African Renaissance" statue unveiled in Dakar.

His second term has been dominated by creeping authoritarianism and a stalled economy in a country seen by many in the region as a haven of stability. But on Saturday, there was widespread anger at the arrest of one of the leaders of the M23 movement, Alioune Tine.

Mr N'Dour himself was jostled by police and says he was threatened after attempting to visit Mr Tine in custody. The musician has warned that the country has become a "police state" and accused authorities of tapping his phones.