Senegalese music icon and presidential hopeful Youssou Ndour has urged world leaders to pressure incumbent Abdoulaye Wade to abandon his bid for a third term in office, fearing it could spark violence.
In an interview with AFP the world-famous singer, who this week shook up the country's presidential race by announcing his candidacy, said Wade, 85, had no place on the February 26 ballot.
"I don't even consider Wade a candidate, because if we stay within the framework of the constitution, he does not have the right," Ndour said of a dilemma that has gripped the nation for months, sparking violent clashes.
Wade was first elected in 2000 for a two-term mandate, and re-elected in 2007 but since the length of presidential terms was changed while he was in office he argues that he is due another stint. Opposition and civil society fiercely disagree.
The Grammy-winning Ndour said influential leaders need to step in before it is too late and the controversial candidacy would lead one of Africa's most stable democracies towards trouble.
"I appeal to the whole world, to those who are not yet clear on this: We need to tell him the truth," Ndour said, addressing himself to America's President Barack Obama, France's Nicolas Sarkozy, British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
"Tell him clearly, Obama, Sarko, Cameron, Merkel, et cetera, tell him that the fundamental law, that which governs Senegal, does not allow him to stand. That he must not force it because it is better to be safe than sorry.""I say this because generally they (these leaders) stay out of it until there are problems. We don't need that in Senegal, it is a country of peace," Ndour said.
The Constitutional Council is expected to rule on the legality of Wade's candidacy in late January.
"I am non-violent, but we don't control the Senegalese. From the moment there is no justice, peace is not possible. Justice goes with peace, peace with justice," the musician added.
Senegal's most violent riots under Wade's rule took place in June when he tried to reduce the proportion of votes needed to win an election from 50 percent to 25 percent to avoid a run-off.
The proposed constitutional changes -- including efforts to create a post of vice president seen as a way to groom his son as his successor -- were scrapped after violent clashes that left scores injured.
Clashes between the ruling party and opposition in late December left one person dead and three injured.
With some 20 candidates running in an election seen by analysts as the most open since independence from France in 1960, Ndour hopes to transform fans into voters despite the odds against him.
Born in Dakar's working-class Medina suburb, Ndour has spent three decades touring the world, but has no university degree.
"I have studied at the school of the world. Travel teaches as much as books," Ndour said when he declared his candidacy.
Hailed as one of the world's greatest living singers, Ndour has achieved huge international success with his blend of Senegal's popular Mbalax music style with samba, hip-hop, jazz and soul.
The 52-year-old singer has kept his ties to his country, and proved to be a savvy businessman, running a micro-finance company and a media group. He says he is bringing "a new approach, a new vision" to the leadership of the country.
"I think I will create a surprise, I think there is a quiet change happening, people will vote Youssou Ndour."I see the desperation of the people. I am one of them. I see the situation deteriorating."
If elected, the singer's priorities will be health, education and agriculture and reducing what he called the "lavish state lifestyle."
"As president of Senegal, I know I will be welcomed with open arms around the world, and that way I can change the game, be part of a dynamic economy, because I want to achieve food self-sufficiency" for Senegal.
If elected, "You" as he is affectionately called, pledged to abandon all his artistic and business endeavours: "Senegal is more important than all of that."