Senegal is a country located in the region of Western Africa. Following the victory of the presidential election in March 2012, Macky Sall of the Alliance for the Republic-Hope Party (APR-Yakaar) launched economic reforms to boost growth and invested heavily in new infrastructure, including new freeways and high-speed trains. His government has also conducted corruption investigations against high-ranking members of former President Wade’s government. The segregated separatist uprising in the southern province of Casamance has not subsided during Sall’s term – rather the opposite.
When, after twelve years in power, Abdoulaye Wade of the Senegal Democratic Party (PDS) confessed to being defeated in the 2012 presidential election, Senegal consolidated his position as a democratic example in Africa. Stability seemed to be rocking before the election: the protests against the government were extensive and there was some unrest (see Modern History). But when former Prime Minister Sall emerged victorious from the battle, Wade was quick to congratulate his former ally and party mate for the victory.
- Countryaah: Country facts and history of Senegal, including state flag, location map, demographics, GDP data, currency code, and business statistics.
After the election victory, Sall formed a government in which the world-famous singer Youssou N’Dour was given the post of Minister of Culture and Tourism. N’Dour joined Sall’s candidacy when he himself was rejected as presidential candidate by the Constitutional Court (see Modern History).
In the July 2012 parliamentary elections, the party alliance Benno Bokk Yakaar (BBY, “United in Hope” at Wolof), which included Sall’s APR, received a clear majority in the National Assembly. It gave Sall a clear mandate to implement its policy, including reforming the economy to create new jobs and reducing the cost of living for the poor.
After five years in power, Benno Bokk Yakaar consolidated his position through an even bigger victory in the parliamentary elections in July 2017.
Among the politicians in the presence of President Wade who were convicted of corruption after the 2012 coup was Wade’s son Karim Wade, who served as minister in the father’s government. Karim Wade was sentenced in March 2015 to six years in prison for illegally donating billions of money through various companies related to, among other things, state infrastructure projects (see Calendar). However, Abdoulaye Wade argued that the legal process against his son was part of Sall’s attempt to get rid of competitors for power ahead of the next presidential election. The same month that the verdict against Karim Wade fell, the opposition PDS appointed him as its presidential candidate.
Karim Wade denied all crimes and his lawyers called the trial a “political witch hunt”. After the verdict fell, President Wade called on PDS supporters to walk out on the streets in protest. They gathered outside Wade’s house, where they burned car tires and threw stones at police. Karim Wade was pardoned by the president in 2015 after serving half his sentence.
Sall’s support is weakening
A few years into the term of office, popular support for the Sall government began to weaken, as voters’ hopes for a better life came to shame. Sali’s promises of a reliable electricity supply had also not been realized, rather the electricity cuts had become more numerous. The president was also accused of putting people with close ties to his own family on high political posts.
The June 2014 local elections became a clear sign of declining voter support when Sall lost power in Dakar and other key cities. As a result, Prime Minister Aminata Touré was dismissed. She was succeeded by Mohamed Dionne, advisor to President Sall.
In 2014, President Sall promised a referendum to cut the president’s term of office from seven to five years before the next election. However, the Constitutional Court rejected the president’s plans for his own term to be shortened. In a March 2016 referendum, a clear majority of voters agreed to shorten the president’s term of office to five years from the 2019 election.
Before the July 2017 parliamentary elections, political conflicts escalated. Dakar Mayor Khalifa Sall left the governing alliance BBY and headed another association of parties: Manko Taxawu Senegaal. However, the election was a success for BBY, which received about half the votes. Khalifa Sall won a seat in Parliament, despite sitting in custody since March 2017, accused of corruption. He himself claimed that the prosecution against him is politically motivated when he was seen as one of Macky Sall’s main challengers in the 2019 presidential election. Sall was later deprived of his immunity from prosecution later that year and excluded from the Socialist Party. He was sentenced in March 2018 to five years in prison, a sentence which was later upheld by the Court of Appeal. This means he is not allowed to take part in the elections. Neither does Karim Wade, with reference to the verdict against him.
President Macky Sall receives some criticism for using the courts to get rid of political opponents. He has also lost popularity especially among the urban population, not least in Dakar where Khalifa Sall still has strong support. Problems with water supply have contributed to the falling popularity figures.
The 2019 presidential election
Five candidates got the go-ahead to stand in the presidential election: the incumbent president, Ousmane Sonko, a rising star in the opposition, the former prime minister and mayor of Thiès, Idrissa Seck, Madické Niang, with close ties to former president Abdoulaye Wade, and El Hadji Sall from the Party Unity and Collection (PUR).
The biggest threat to the president came from Ousmane Sonko, a former tax inspector who has written a book on corruption in the country’s gas industry. He pleaded, among other things, for Senegal to abandon the CFA franc as currency. Issa Sall, founder of Sahel University in Dakar, is also expected to do well, as he has support from the Muslim Brotherhood Tidjania (see Religion). Macky Sall, for his part, has the support of the even more influential brotherhood of Mouridia.
With both Khalifa Sall and Karim Wade out of the game, most were still talking about President Sall winning the presidential election already in the first round, thanks in large part to strong support from the rural population. In his election campaign, Macky Sall sought to draw attention to a number of major infrastructure projects implemented during the term of office, including a new high-speed rail to be used in 2019, a new museum on black history. He can also point to better electricity supply in rural areas and high growth in the economy. A new “futuristic” city, Diamniadio, is also being built near the new airport, Blaise Diagne International Airport, a few miles outside Dakar, to reduce the pressure on the capital (see also Communications). There, among other things, a new university will be built, Amadou Mahtar Mbow University, high-tech industry, a large conference center, a large sports facility and housing for over 300,000 residents (today about 30,000 people live in the city). Several government ministries will also move there. However, the project has received criticism for not being adapted to reality, as few Senegalese earn enough to live there. He has also been criticized for not doing enough to improve the lives of people in common.
At the same time, Abdoulaye Wade urged his supporters to boycott the election. He had also urged his followers to light a fire on ballot boxes. His party PDS did not stand for election at all, as the former president had excluded all candidates other than the son.
The incumbent president wins the election by just over 58 percent of the vote. His contenders reject the result, but the foreign election observers approve the election (see Calendar).
Read more about the events in the Calendar.
Read about the Casamance conflict here.
FACTS – POLITICS
Republic of Senegal / Republic of Senegal
republic, unitary state
Head of State
President Macky Sall (2012–)
Head of government
Prime Minister Mohamed Dionne (2014–) 1
Most important parties with mandates in the last election
Benno Bokk Yakaar 125, Mankoo Taxawu Senegaal 19, Mankoo Taxawu Senegaal 7, others 14 (2017)
Main parties with mandates in the second most recent elections
Benno Bokk Yakaar 119, Senegal Democratic Party (PDS) 12 and 19 seats for several smaller parties (2012)
around 54% in the parliamentary elections in July 2017, just over 66% in the presidential elections in February 2019
presidential elections 2019, parliamentary elections 2022
- The National Assembly voted in May 2019 to abolish the Prime Minister’s post, when this happens in practice is not known.Sources
The conflict in Casamance
In southern Senegal, the Movement for the Casamance Democratic Forces (Mouvement des Forces Democratiques de la Casamance, MFDC) is waging an armed struggle for independence since 1982. The province of Casamance is cut off from the rest of the country by the Gambia, which cuts into a wedge in Senegal.
The rebels within the MFDC believe that the province is neglected by the government of Dakar. Furthermore, cultural and religious traditions are partly different there and many Casamancebor people have reacted to the “Wolofisation” when Senegalese from the north move there and receive high administrative positions.
Already in the early 1990s, the separatist movement was divided into several different factions, most of whom wanted to see a complete outbreak of Senegal, while others wanted to negotiate with Dakar for increased self-government.
Periods of ceasefire and mediation, including Guinea-Bissau, have been interspersed with renewed fighting. Over the years, the low-intensity conflict has mainly affected Casamance’s civilian population and support for the MFDC has decreased over the years. In 2013, the MFDC was estimated to consist of between 1,200 and 2,000 armed rebels, divided into four factions.
Following the last ceasefire agreement in 2004, a period of relatively calm followed with only occasional clashes before the fighting once again gained momentum from 2010 onwards. Several soldiers, rebels and civilians have since been killed in assaults and attacks on both military bases and civilian targets. The government side has expressed concern that the guerrillas appear to have acquired more sophisticated weapons than it has in the past.
President Sall’s entry into 2012 initially gave some hope that a peace process could start. Sall promised investments in the development of agriculture and the infrastructure in Casamance. But attempts at peace talks have stalled, partly because it has been difficult for the government to know who to negotiate with. A large part of the MFDC’s political leadership lives in exile in Europe and opposes all kinds of negotiations. The military branch at home does not always follow the directives of the political branch in Europe.