Senegal Democracy and Rights

Democracy and rights

Democratic tradition and the rule of law are strong in Senegal. But the government has recently been criticized for limiting the opposition’s potential for influence.

Abbreviated as SEN by Abbreviationfinder, Senegal is usually described as one of Africa’s most stable democracies. Multiparty systems have prevailed since the 1970s and elections are usually reported by independent observers as free and fair. The opposition is large and important rights are enshrined in the constitution.

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But recent developments have worried human rights organizations. Prior to the 2019 presidential election, the rules for how votes were counted changed in a way that was considered to have limited the opposition’s chances of winning. At the same time, criminal charges have been brought against several foreground figures within the opposition, charges that are believed to be politically motivated. However, international election observers approved the election (see Current Policy).

Civil society is vibrant and has a strong tradition. According to the law, freedom of assembly and association prevails. Demonstrations, however, must be approved by the Interior Ministry, which also regulates their time and place. In the past year, it has happened that the regime has refused permission for demonstrations and forcibly dispelled peaceful public assemblies.

According to the Constitution, men and women are equal, but gender stereotyped roles and customs live requirements especially in rural areas. But developments are moving forward and in 2018, 42 percent of the members of parliament were women.

Homosexuality is prohibited by law and taboo. The penalties are imprisonment for up to five years, but it is uncommon for prosecution to be brought (see Social conditions).

Freedom of religion is guaranteed in Senegal’s constitution and tolerance is great between the country’s various religious groups (see Religion).

Corruption occurs. However, Transparency International, which places Senegal in place 67 in its index of perceived corruption in 180 countries, believes that the situation is better than in most other West African countries. In 2014, a law was passed requiring the president and senior political officials to disclose their assets at the end of each year.

Freedom of expression and media

Freedom of the press and opinion are included in the constitution. At the same time, the media is limited by laws that allow journalists to risk imprisonment and high fines for insulting the president, publishing fake news or threatening the country’s security. The Law of Contempt has been used to prosecute journalists who have been critical of the regime.

Under President Sall, the media climate has been relatively tolerant and many media have been able to take a government-critical stance without feeling bad. In 2013, however, the editor-in-chief of the privately owned newspaper Le Quotidien was sentenced to one month in prison and fined for publishing a critical article on a former foreign minister. A reporter in the daily newspaper was also sentenced to a shorter prison sentence. The court also decided to close Le Quotidien for three months. Other prosecution charges or charges of “spreading fake news” have also resulted in similar punishments.

Access to the internet is not restricted by the authorities, but in 2018 a law was passed that gives the authorities increased powers to restrict and monitor social channels online.

Judicial system and legal security

The judiciary is based on the French judicial system. The courts are relatively competent and formally independent, but are sometimes criticized for being influenced by political or economic authorities (see Political system).

The government says it is fighting impunity and some investigations into human rights violations have led to convictions. In practice, however, investigations of reported abuse within the police or of corruption in the authorities rarely occur.

Senegal has problems with overcrowded prisons. It is not uncommon for long detention times to be sentenced. The death penalty was abolished in 2004.



Special court set up to review Chad’s former dictator

Parliament formally approves the setting up of a special court to investigate Chad’s former dictator Hissène Habré (see Political system), which has long been in Senegal; The African Union (AU) will appoint judges on a proposal from Senegal’s Minister of Justice. The chairman of the court must come from another African country.

MFDC releases prisoners

The separation movement MFDC in Casamance releases eight Senegalese it has held captive. The releases are a first result of the Catholic Church’s mediation to initiate peace talks between the MFDC and the government.


Parliament votes to abolish the Senate and Vice Presidential post

Both chambers of Parliament vote to abolish the Senate and the Vice Presidential post. President Sall’s critics argue that it is a way for him to reduce the influence of the opposition, since most of the senators are related to Wade, but the Sall government states that it is about saving money for the rescue work after the floods (see August 2012).


Senegal is affected by floods

Senegal is hit by severe floods that require at least 13 lives and thousands of homeless people become homeless. President Sall cancels a visit to South Africa to go home. He announces plans to close the Senate in order to save money for the rescue work.


1/7 Parliamentary elections

The July 1 parliamentary election will be a major victory for President Sall’s party ally Benno Bokk Yakaar (“United in Hope” on the Wolof), who will receive 119 of the 150 seats in the National Assembly. Wade’s PDS wins only 12 mandates, while 4 mandates go to a faction that broke out of PDS. The turnout is only 37 percent. A new law introduced to create more space for women produces results when 64 women are elected to the National Assembly. 1/7.


The former interior minister is arrested

Former Interior Minister Ousmane Ngom is arrested and questioned about how he has made his fortune.


The president of the campaign to fight corruption

On May 8, President Sall reports on his financial assets, which is part of his campaign to fight corruption. Before that, the government has appointed a special court to try to recover the state’s assets lost through corruption and other irregularities. Former President Wade threatens to disrupt parliamentary elections unless investigations are closed.


New President assumes office

Macky Sall will take over as President on April 2 and appoint Abdoul Mbaye as new Prime Minister the following day. Sall appoints the singer and media mogul N’Dour as Minister of Tourism and Culture. N’Dour supported Sall in the election since he himself had failed his candidacy (see January 2012).


25/3 Second round of elections

The second round of the presidential election will be held on March 25. That evening, President Wade acknowledges defeat and congratulates Macky Sall on the victory. The official result shows that Sall received support from 66 percent of voters, against 34 percent for Wade. EU observers note that both the electoral movement and the election itself were carried out without major problems.


26/2 First round

The election is held as planned. The turnout will be 51.6 percent. When the results are presented, it turns out that Wade received just under 35 percent, Macky Sall closer to 27 percent, Moustapha Niasse 13 percent, Ousmane Tanor Dieng 11 percent and Idrissa Seck close to 8 percent. This makes it clear that there will be a second round of elections between Wade and Sall.

The EU and AU are monitoring the election

Both the EU and the African Union (AU) send observers to the election. On February 21, Nigeria’s former President Olusegun Obasanjo will come to Senegal to mediate. Among other things, he will meet the leaders of the M23 movement and several opposition candidates. Obasanjo’s proposal for a solution is rejected by the opposition, according to the proposal, Wade would resign after two years if he wins the election.

Election campaign before the presidential election begins

The election campaign for the February 26 presidential election begins formally at the beginning of the month. The protests are mounting with clashes between protesters, demanding that Wade withdraw his candidacy, and police. Concerns are also raised that the conflict is gaining a religious dimension as some protesters have begun to shout religious slogans (something that is unusual in Senegal). Unrest erupts around a mosque in Dakar after police threw a tear gas cartridge into the building. The police management later apologizes for this. Two more people are killed in connection with the unrest, but street protests continue.


Wade’s candidacy is approved

On January 27, a month before the election, the Constitutional Court will sign Wade’s candidacy, but will reject N’Dours, among others. The decision triggers rattles. At least four people lose their lives.

Youssou N’Dour is running for president

Youssou N’Dour (see November 2011) announces at the beginning of the month that he is running for president.