Learn from Senegal, Pillay tells Africa

March 28, 2012 at 12:37 PM

GENEVA, Switzerland, March 28 (UPI) -- West African nations should look to Senegal as a model for how to conduct a peaceful transition of power, the U.N. human rights chief said.

Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade was praised for his gracious acceptance of defeat to former Prime Minister Macky Sall in a second round of voting last weekend.

Tensions were high after a court ruled term limits didn't apply to Wade but U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said the elections were mostly fair and free of widespread violence.

In Guinea-Bissau, nine contenders squared off in a March 18 presidential race, two months after the death of President Malam Bacai Sanha. Pillay described those elections as "tense" saying an eventual second round of voting should be "free and fair and violence-free."

She added that Mali's reputation as a model for democracy was challenged by unlawful challenges to elected officials during last week's coup.

"Unconstitutional changes of government, accompanied by violence, can have a devastating impact on the human rights situation," she warned in her statement.

"People should benefit from their right to freedom of expression and assembly but also have the right not to be subjected to incitement to hatred or violence."

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