ECOWAS Court Dismisses Case by Son of Former Senegalese President Contesting Constitutionality of Amendment to Electoral Code

The ECOWAS Court of Justice has dismissed a case brought by Mr. Karim Wade, a presidential aspirant of the opposition party ‘le Parti Démocratique Sénégalais’ (PDS) in the February 24, 2019 presidential election in Senegal challenging the constitutionality of the July 2018 amendment to the country’s electoral code.

In the Decision read by Hon. Justice Gberi-bè Ouattara, the Court observed that the text of the Electoral Code was not inconsistent with the Constitution of the Republic of Senegal, and that the July 2018 amendment of the electoral law as it affects voter eligibility applied to every Senegalese and not targeted at the plaintiff.

Mr Wade, a former Minister and son of former President Abdoulaye Wade, filed suit no ECW/CCJ/APP/55/18 on 18th November 2018 alleging the violation of his constitutional right to vote, eligible to run for public office, right to appeal and effective remedy.

But the Court noted that after the plaintiff was refused enlistment in the voter register, he did not avail himself of the appeal window offered for redress at the Embassy in Kuwait where he had initially applied but rather accessed the Courts in Senegal which dismissed it for lack of jurisdiction.

The Court had earlier dismissed the preliminary objection of the defendant challenging the jurisdiction of the Court. Counsels to the defendant, Mr. Antoine Diome, Mr. Yerim Thiam, Mr. Moussa Sow, Mr. William Bourdon and Mr. Samba Biteye, had argued that the Court lacked jurisdiction to hear the matter and that the State’s Ambassador/diplomat had been bestowed with some judicial powers to deal with some issues including such electoral matters.                

However, Counsel to plaintiff, Mr. Cire Cledor Ly, Mr. Mohammed Seydor Diagne and Mr. Demba Cire Bathily, submitted that Articles L31 and L57 of the Electoral Code violated the plaintiff’s right to be a voter and to be eligible to run for public office. They further argued that the plaintiff’s right to appeal was violated by the defendant and that requesting the plaintiff to seek redress from Senegal’s Ambassador to Kuwait will amount to an exercise in futility as the Ambassador is not a judge and therefore lacked judicial powers.

Other judges on the panel were Justices Dupe Atoki and Keikura Bangura.