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The year 1922 is the date that Mr. Wade’s opponents frequently cite as the leader’s real birthday.

Several of his former ministers - including three who are now running against him - use the president’s own words to try to prove that he is older than he says he is.

Former Prime Minister Moustapha Niasse says that when he worked alongside Mr. Wade, the president liked to tell the story of how he ran after the horse of Cheikh Amadou Bamba, a mystic that many here consider a saint.

The only problem is that Bamba died in 1927, while Mr. Wade claims to have been born in 1926.

To be able to have run after the horse, Mr. Niasse says Mr. Wade needed to be at least four, meaning that he was born in 1922 - like his classmate Mr. Aw.

His spokesman Serigne Mbacke called the allegations that Mr. Wade is older than his official age “a fable.”

The president himself has insisted that he is in good health and is able to serve another term.

“We’re as old as we want to be,” he told the online news portal Dakaractu.Com last month. “I still feel like I have the physical and intellectual capacity to serve my people.”

Disappointing end

His decision to run for a third term opens up the possibility that he could die in office, which could destabilize the country.

If Mr. Wade were to die while still president, people fear that his son - who is unpopular and who already controls numerous ministries - would succeed him.

“What shocks people is that he would try to run for a third term. It’s the problem of his age,” said leading investigative journalist Abdou Latif Coulibaly, who was detained by police after publishing a book in which he described how Mr. Wade’s son allegedly embezzled government funds.

“And to be frank, people are very scared that he will try to hand power to his son - which is something that the population does not want at all.”

The idea that Senegal may head down this path is especially distasteful to people in this nation of 12 million who are proud that Senegal is one of the oldest democracies in Africa.

In June, the worst riots in a decade shut down the capital amid Mr. Wade’s unsuccessful attempt to create the post of vice president. Critics said it was intended for his son, who could have automatically succeeded Mr. Wade if he died in office.

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