Business, Finance & Economics

Abdoulaye Wade: 5 facts about Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade (VIDEO)


Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade and his French wife Viviane wave to supporters during the investiture congress of the ruling Senegalese Democratic Party for the upcoming legislative elections, on Mar. 31, 2001 at Demba Diop stadium in Dakar.



BOSTON — When Abdoulaye Wade was first elected Senegal's president in 2000, he was celebrated as a symbol of change for the West African country.

More than a decade later, however, many Senegalese people are violently protesting against his candidacy for reelection to a third term in office.

More from GlobalPost: Senegal: Dakar rocked by anti-Wade demonstrations

With Senegal's presidential election coming up on Feb. 26, here are five interesting facts you should know about Wade:

1. “Gorgui” or old man

Wade, 85, is Africa’s second oldest president after Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe who turned 88 on Feb. 21. Wade was born on May 29, 1926 in Kebemer, which is 95 miles north of the capital, Dakar, but some dispute Wade's real birth date, saying it was several years earlier. If Wade wins the election as he predicts, he would be at least 92 years old if he completes his seven-year mandate. According to the BBC, Wade owes his good health to his love for swimming.

More from GlobalPost: Africa's "generation chasm" shows why leaders are out of touch

2. Lover of France

Wade was awarded a scholarship to study in France after finishing secondary school in Senegal. He studied law in France, where he met his wife Viviane. They got married in 1963, and Wade worked in France as a barrister for a few years before returning to Senegal, where he set up his law practice. Wade and Viviane have two children, a son Karim Wade and a daughter Sindjely Wade.

3. “Super minister” son

Wade has been long accused of preparing his son Karim, 44, to be his successor. In 2009, Karim's appointment as "super minister" stirred much anger. In 2011, Wade tried to create a vice president position which people suspected was designed for his son. As "super minister" Karim oversees operations dealing with energy, international cooperation, regional development, air transport and infrastructure. Meanwhile Wade is being critized for wanting to remain in power to secure his son's future in leadership despite a vow Wade made in 2007 to step down in 2012.

4. Cunning Hare
In 1974, Wade convinced Senegal's independence-era leader and the poet-cum-president Leopold Sedar Senghor, to let him create an opposition party, the Democratic Party of Senegal (PDS), Al Jazeera reported. Wade initially formed PDS as a coalition group rather than an out-and-out opposition party. According to Reuters, "Wade lulled Senghor into a sense of security — only to stand against him in the 1978 vote." The shocked Senghor first dubbed  Wade "Diombor" (Wolof for "The Hare"), an animal known in traditional Senegalese folklore for its cunning.

5. Controversial statue

One of Wade's most controversial personal projects is the Africa Renaissance monument that was unveiled in 2010. While Senegal suffers from daily power outages and rising costs of living, Wade spent $27 million on a North Korean-built copper statue that is slightly bigger than New York's Statue of Liberty, reported Reuters. At its unveiling, GlobalPost's correspondent described the statue: "A muscled man emerges from a volcano. His left arm holds a baby aloft toward the West, his right arm pulls a scantily clad woman behind him." Some Senegalese joke that the statue is none other than Wade, his wife and his son Karim.

More from GlobalPost: Amid protest, Senegal's President Wade leads his own rally

Here's a recent video on Senegal's reaction to Wade before the 2012 election:

Wade Battling Many Fronts Ahead of Election
World News Videos by NewsLook