Senegal's president says will stick to seven-year mandate

Senegal's President Macky Sall attends the opening ceremony of the 26th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union (AU) at the AU headquarters in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, January 30, 2016. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

DAKAR (Reuters) - Senegal's President Macky Sall said on Tuesday he will complete a seven-year mandate that runs until 2019, ditching a promise made during his election campaign to cut the term to five years. Senegal is viewed as a bulwark of democracy in Africa, and that pledge would have brought it into line it with former colonial power France at a time when several other leaders across the continent have sought to extend their rule. Such actions have often triggered unrest, most recently in Burundi, where President Pierre Nkurunziza's decision to seek a third term has triggered months of violence, killing over 400 people. "The mandate currently under way will be completed in 2019," Sall said in a statement in French on state television that followed a recommendation by the country's constitutional council. He had told voters in the West African country in 2012 that he would shorten his current term by changing the constitution. While the U-turn is not expected to destabilize the country, it could prove politically costly for Sall, who is widely expected to seek a second term. "The mid-term risk is that he is seen as back-peddling on his promises and (voters) could punish him in legislative elections next year," said a Western diplomatic source. Sall said he will hold a March referendum on a package of constitutional changes, including the shorter mandate, although they will only take effect after the current term. (Reporting by Diadie Ba and Emma Farge; editing by John Stonestreet)