By Alhagie Jobe
Karim Wade, the jailed son of Senegal’s ex-president Abdoulaye Wade has finally been release from Reubeuss prison early Friday, June 24th, 2016, (precisely at around 1:30am GMT) after serving 3 years of his 6 years conviction.
A communiqué from the Senegal Presidency signed by President Macky Sall confirming his pardon stated: “The President of the Republic, by Decree No: 2016-880 of 24th June 2016, pardoned Mr Karim Meissa Wade, Ibrahima Aboukhalil Bibo Bourgi and Alioune Samba Diasse. It should be clarified that the pardon is only limited on serving the prison term but the financial sanctions contained in the judgment of 23rd March 2015 and the recovery procedure initiated still remains”.
Since his release, Karim Wade headed straight to the home of former minister Madicke Niang where he met the delegation from the Grand Marabout of the Mourid brotherhood who prayed for him.
He then departed straight to the Leopold Sedar Senghore International Airport where he boarded a private jet named ‘Qatar Executive’ reportedly sent to pick him by his friends in the emirates. He has since 2:45am, left the shores of Senegal heading to Qatar.
Currently the flag bearer and presidential candidate of his father’s opposition Party Democratic Senegalese (PDS) Party, Karim was detained on April 17th, 2013 and accused of illegally amassing about $1.4bn and illegal enrichment during his father’s 12-year rule.
Dubbed ‘the minister of the earth and the sky’ Karim who was a senior minister in his father’s government and in charge of major infrastructure and energy projects was on March 23rd, 2015, sentenced to six years in prison for corruption Senegal’s Court for Repression of Illicit Enrichment (CREI), though cleared off some charges. He was also fined $230m (£150m).
Few weeks ago, the three accused persons convicted with Karim Wade namely Ibrahima Aboukhalil Bibo Bourgi, Alioune Samba Diasse and Papa Mamadou Pouye were released on bail which brought speculations that Karim Wade’s release was also imminent.
Earlier on June 2nd, 2016, President Macky Sall during an interview with French-based RFI Radio confirmed that it is very possible to release Karim Wade this year, saying a lot of people are demanding it, but it must be put in the actual context as enshrined in the constitution.
Abdoulaye Wade’s downfall
It’s hard to believe that 15 years ago, Senegal euphorically elected Abdoulaye Wade as president, ending the 40-year rule of the Parti Socialiste. The year 2000 consecrated the end of the patrimonial post-independence Senegalese state; it marked the dawn of a new social contract between the people and the state. But Abdoulaye Wade’s monumentally misplaced priorities, his compulsive attempts at altering the constitution, and his folie de grandeur plunged Senegal into a dozen years of malaise.
President Wade was accused of several corruption scandals like handing a suitcase full of cash to a departing IMF representative and turning the presidential palace like one giant ATM machine.
And then there was Karim Wade, a hair in the Senegalese soup. He was nowhere to be seen in Senegalese streets during the struggles that helped elect his father. He was a banker in London, who decided to come home to lend his talent to his father’s administration in 2000 when he acquired his Senegalese passport.
From the informal position of adviser to his daddy-president, Karim Wade started eying the prize. He entered the political arena when he ran in local mayoral elections in Dakar in 2009 but lost miserably. In fact, he didn’t even win the neighborhood polling station where he cast his vote.
Abdoulaye Wade’s failed legacy
Abdoulaye Wade has always believed that his son was a genius. Karim Wade then entered the government as a minister, and at some point held the ridiculous title of Minister of State, Minister of International Cooperation, of Air Transport, of Infrastructures, and of Energy. As his father said at the time, “only Karim is able to handle four (4) government positions merged into one.”
Speaking ironically, the Senegalese people nicknamed Karim Wade as the “Minister of Heaven and Earth.” While Karim toured the world aboard his leased private jet, rubbing shoulders with heads of states and wealthy sheikhs in the Gulf, the Senegalese people grew frustrated at the father’s attempt to groom the son as the next president.
The blow came in 2011 when Wade proposed a change of the constitution that would lower the threshold required to win the presidential elections on the first round from 51 to only 25%, and introduced a presidential ticket system. The populations besieged the National Assembly the day that the members of the parliament were set to pass the legislation, and Wade eventually abandoned the proposal.
Wade’s attempt at leaving his legacy – literally – on Senegalese political history would have succeeded had it not been foiled by the fact that 65% of Senegalese voters dragged him out of office in 2012 replacing him with his former protégé, Macky Sall. That’s an enormous margin of loss for an incumbent president.
When Macky Sall became president in 2012, he reactivated the CREI – a special court for Repression of Illicit Enrichment (CREI), aimed at fighting illicit enrichment of the elites, embezzlement and corruption. Karim Wade then had to justify the origins of his assets (valued at $240 million). Many of these assets were traced to bank accounts in Monaco and Singapore, and offshore companies in Panama and the British Virgin Islands. Karim Wade maintains that all his assets are gifts from his father and other friends.
In a Wikileaked diplomatic cable, then-US Ambassador to Senegal Marcia Bernicat, referred to Karim Wade as “Mister 15%”, hinting at his share in all big contracts in Senegal. His wealth is not the only problem but Ambassador Bernicat added, “Karim Wade is a master at being concurrently out of the spotlight and ever-present. Ministers are scared of him, business people are cowed by him, and major policy decisions are vetted by him. He is, by all accounts, charming and smart… But, his influence is pervasive, and largely insalubrious.”
Karim Wade’s lawyers claim that he is a political prisoner and the CREI being the political arm of President Macky Sall in an attempt to disqualify a potential adversary for the 2017 presidential elections. But there is no plausible scenario in which a majority of Senegalese voters would cast their votes for him. That doesn’t stop Abdoulaye Wade from his desperate attempts at setting his son free.
Three days before the verdict was set to be delivered, Karim’s father Abdoulaye Wade and his PDS party, nominated Karim as their candidate for the 2019 presidential elections.
Running for president’s office from a prison cell was the next episode in this political drama. After all, Abdoulaye Wade was the only one thinking that Karim is a viable candidate. What matters for the Senegalese people is: What was next?
Soon after the verdict, the Minister of Justice announced that the CREI will continue its work, pursuing the investigations and prosecuting all those who have illegally amassed fortunes. Such a course of action would not only restore faith in state institutions, but also ease the worries of those who think that Karim Wade should not be the only one having to face justice. Moreover, those currently serving in the administration should be paying attention.
Since his arrest, trial and conviction, former President Abdoulaye Wade and his party continue to press for the release of Karim, which they have finally succeeded and early Friday, June 24th, Karim Wade walked out free from the State Central Prison of Reubuess.