Rarely does an elected leader come into office pledging to serve less time than the law allows. But that’s exactly what Senegal’s new president, Macky Sall, has done. He has vowed to reverse a controversial extension of the president’s term enacted by his predecessor. “Although I was elected for seven years, I will serve a five-year term,” he told an audience at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics last week. In a speech that toggled between French and English, he said that pledge is “a good reason to work fast and hard.”
On a continent that has seen a worrisome backslide in accountable governance in recent years, Senegal provides an inspiring model of Africans safeguarding democracy. Last year, Senegal’s long democratic tradition appeared to be eroding. The country’s 85-year-old president, Abdoulaye Wade, flouted term limits to run for a third time, and appeared to be setting up his unpopular son to succeed him. Voters protested. Then they elected Sall, a politician who unified the opposition behind an anti-corruption message. To his credit, Wade immediately acknowledged defeat and stepped aside. Senegal, which has seen poverty decline and life expectancy rise, is reaping the benefits of stability and democracy. Other countries in Africa, and elsewhere in the world, would be wise to follow its example.