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Opposition leader Ousmane Sonko continued hunger strike to protest detention, and electoral reform allowed previously sidelined political heavyweights to stand for election.
On hunger strike since late July to protest his detention and dissolution of his PASTEF party, opposition leader Ousmane Sonko was admitted to hospital 6 Aug and to intensive care 16 Aug. PASTEF next day condemned “inhuman persecution” of Sonko. Almost 150 prominent figures, including former minister Serigne Diop, and President of Senegalese League for Human Rights, Alassane Seck, signed petition demanding Sonko’s release and reinstatement of PASTEF. Meanwhile, parliament 5 Aug passed electoral law revision effectively clearing two key opposition figures to run for president in Feb 2024: Khalifa Sall, former mayor of Dakar, and Karim Wade, son of former President Abdoulaye Wade.
Political climate eased as President Sall decided not to stand for re-election, but detention of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko rekindled tensions.
Incumbent president renounced third candidacy. President Sall 3 July announced he will not run for third term in Feb 2024 election. International community immediately hailed decision, with U.S. Sec State Anthony Blinken welcoming “example for the region”, and UN Sec Gen António Guterres praising “demonstration of statesmanship and leadership”.
Authorities arrested opposition leader, sparking deadly protests. Opposition leader Ousmane Sonko 6 July denounced legal actions taken against him, including two-year prison sentence for “corrupting the youth”, as unjust, and warned of “indescribable chaos” if his presidential candidacy is prevented. Authorities 24 July lifted security detail set up around Sonko’s home in capital Dakar since late May, with govt next day saying risk to public order had faded. Police 28 July arrested Sonko on accusations of plotting an insurrection, and Sonko 30 July announced starting hunger strike. Authorities next day formally charged him with “fomenting an insurrection”, dissolved his party and restricted Internet access. Protests also 31 July broke out in Sonko’s southern city of Ziguinchor, with clashes between police and protesters leaving two people dead. Meanwhile, security forces 11 July arrested Sonko’s close ally, MP Birame Souleye Diop, on charges of “offenses against the head of state”; Diop released from police custody 19 July, but case ongoing.
Deadly protests erupted after court sentenced opposition leader to prison.
Court in capital Dakar 1 June sentenced opposition leader Ousmane Sonko to two years in prison for “corrupting the youth”, de facto disqualifying him from Feb 2024 presidential election; court however acquitted him of rape. Sonko’s supporters immediately denounced ruling as politically motivated, and 1-2 June staged protests notably in Dakar’s suburbs and Sonko’s hometown of Ziguinchor (Casamance region), with clashes reported between police and protesters. Govt 2 June deployed army in Dakar, and 4 June shut down mobile internet access, citing need to combat “subversive messages in a context of public disorder in certain localities”. Govt same day said clashes left 16 protesters dead, while NGO Amnesty International 9 June reported 23 fatalities, and Sonko’s party 20 June counted 30. Calm quickly returned but situation remained volatile until month’s end, with Sonko under de facto house arrest in Dakar pending transfer to jail, and President Sall expected to announce in early June whether or not he will run for third term in 2024.
Political tensions continued to mount as court sentenced opposition leader Ousmane Sonko in libel case while rape trial opened, sparking deadly protests.
Clashes between opposition supporters and police left several dead. Court of appeal 8 May extended prominent opposition leader Ousmane Sonko’s suspended prison sentence in libel case from two to six months, which could prevent him from running in presidential vote scheduled for Feb 2024. Sonko 8-9 May called on supporters to “stand up and fight with all available means” and 12 May filed appeal at Court of Cassation. On eve of Sonko’s trial in separate rape case, pro-Sonko protesters 15 May clashed with police in Ziguinchor city, Sonko’s stronghold in Casamance region (south), and capital Dakar; interior ministry next day said clashes left two civilians dead. Prosecutor 24 May asked court to find Sonko guilty of rape and sentence him to ten-year jail term. Sonko same day called on supporters to join him for march of defiance to Dakar, which 26 May left Ziguinchor. Security forces 28 May stopped caravan and escorted Sonko to his house in Dakar. Pro-Sonko supporters next day clashed with police in Dakar, and Sonko 30 May reiterated call for civil disobedience.
Opposition to President Sall’s potential third term bid persisted. Coalition of civil society and political parties (F24 coalition) 12 May demonstrated in Dakar against Sall’s potential third term bid, with no incidents reported. Upon Sall’s invitation, govt and various political and civil society actors 31 May convened for national dialogue talks.
Govt forces clashed with separatists in Casamance region. Local media 10 May reported army clashed with faction of separatist Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC) during combing operation near Sindian village in northern Casamance, leaving five soldiers injured. Meanwhile, two other MFDC factions 13 May officially laid down arms during ceremony with state representatives in Bignona department as part of ongoing peace process.
Military launched operation against Casamance separatists in country’s south. Authorities 13 March launched military operation against separatist group Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance in southern Casamance region, with stated aim of dismantling group’s bases and preserving integrity of national territory. Gambian authorities 22 March said over 6,000 people had fled their homes since operation started, most of whom were displaced inside Gambia after Senegalese bullets landed on Gambian villages bordering Casamance. Dakar 23 March announced military operation had destroyed eight rebel bases across Casamance so far; also reported several rebels and one soldier killed.
Deadly clashes broke out between Casamance separatists and soldiers in neighbouring Gambia. Suspected members of separatist Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance 24 Jan killed four Senegalese soldiers from West Africa’s regional bloc ECOWAS Mission in The Gambia and took another seven hostage during clash near Bwiam town in Gambia; soldiers killed one suspected rebel and captured another three.
Arrest of opposition leader sparked deadliest political unrest in years. Authorities 3 March arrested main opposition leader and MP Ousmane Sonko – whose parliamentary immunity was removed late Feb – over rape allegations. Hours earlier, hundreds of youths protested in support of Sonko outside his house and at Cheikh Anta Diop University in capital Dakar, decrying charges as politically motivated; protesters clashed with police, leaving at least three injured. Sonko 5 March appeared in court on additional charge of disrupting public order. Protesters in Dakar same day set up street barricades, burned tyres and threw stones at police who fired tear gas and stunt grenades; Interior Minister Antoine Félix Abdoulaye Diome same day said six had died in violence, while authorities curbed internet access, suspended TV broadcasts covering protests and banned use of motorcycles and mopeds in capital as part of attempt to discourage mobilisation of Sonko’s young supporter base. Protesters 6 March burned down military police station and ransacked govt buildings in southern town of Diaobe; at least one 17-year-old killed and six others injured. Mediator of the Republic Alioune Badara Cissé next day called on authorities to “pause and speak with our youth” and warned that country was “on the verge of an apocalypse”, while education ministry announced school closures until 15 March. Unrest subsided after Sonko charged with rape and released on bail 8 March. President Sall 10 March declared day of national mourning and said COVID-19 restrictions would be lifted 19 March. NGO Human Rights Watch 12 March called for independent investigation into “reported deaths of at least ten people and injuries of hundreds” during early March protests.
Military claimed major gains against separatists in contested Casamance region. Army 9 Feb said it had overrun three rebel camps in Casamance region in south since launching offensive against separatist Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance in late Jan; move comes after months of lull in longstanding conflict, which last flared up in 2018.
Following 24 Feb presidential election, electoral commission 28 Feb declared President Sall winner with provisional result of 58.27% of vote. Runner-up Idrissa Seck conceded defeat. Tensions rose ahead of vote. Former President Abdoulaye Wade, father of barred candidate Karim Wade, 8 Feb called for boycott. In Tambacounda, 400km east of capital Dakar, clashes between President Sall’s supporters and those of opposition candidate Issa Sall 12 Feb left two dead; 24 people arrested, including twenty of Issa Sall’s bodyguards.
Ahead of Feb presidential elections, Constitutional Council 14 Jan confirmed two main opposition candidates barred from running; Karim Wade, son of former President Abdoulaye Wade, and former mayor of capital Dakar Khalifa Sall imprisoned for corruption in 2015 and 2018 respectively. Police 25 Jan blocked planned opposition march against Constitutional Council’s ruling.
Unidentified gunmen shot dead thirteen people 6 Jan near town of Borofaye in Casamance region in south, where separatists have been waging campaign for independence of Casamance region since early 1980s. Police 25 Jan arrested and charged 24 people for crime, including member of separatist Movement of Democratic Forces for Casamance.
President Sall visited Casamance separatist region late Feb to inaugurate development projects as part of greater economic strategy to resolve decades-long conflict, announced delivery of two boats to facilitate link between Dakar and Casamance regional capital Ziguinchor.
Radical Casamance separatist leader Salif Sadio announced unilateral ceasefire 29 April. Border dispute with Gambia over transport tariffs ended 25 April, Gambian President Jammeh announced reopening of border. Former President Wade returned to country 25 April ahead of son’s trial for corruption.
President Sall 17-19 March visited Casamance separatist region, reiterated unspecified peace offer, announced €35mn development plan. Following meeting with U.S. envoy, moderate separatist leader César Badiate 25 March called for real negotiations, suggested U.S. host.
U.S. embassy 3 Feb announced new special adviser for Casamance, Mark Boulware. Robert Sagna, mediator in Casamance conflict supported by President Sall, 22 Feb said hardliner separatist leader Salif Sadio obstacle to reunification of MFDC factions. State-approved mediator Sant’Egidio 25 Feb announced Sall envoys and Sadio representatives met in Rome. Authorities 26 Feb confirmed no arrest warrant for Sadio, both sides agreed “to behave in such a way to favour negotiations”.
Justice Minister Aminata Touré took over as PM 1 Sept, second female PM in Senegal’s history; promotion of technocrats to manage economy and of renowned human rights lawyer Sidiki Kaba at justice ministry well received, but replacement at interior ministry of General Seck by politician Abdoulaye Daouda Diallo generated criticism. Moderate Casamance separatists led by César Badiate 7 Sept met President Sall’s adviser Robert Sagna and U.S. diplomat James Bullington in Guinea-Bissau to discuss peace process.
Gambian president Jammeh 5 July said he would not contribute to resolution of Casamance crisis unless Senegal asked him to. Casamance separatists 12 July released remaining 9 Denel Land Systems (DLS)/Mechem mine-clearing employees after 72 days’ captivity.
Casamance separatist faction leader César Badiate announced imminent release of remaining 9 civilian mine-clearing experts abducted in May, insisting authorities had acknowledged 6 June violation of earlier agreement on demining limits. President Sall 20 June announced reconciliation, reconstruction and sustainable development central to govt Casamance policy. Authorities 30 Juneremanded former Chadian dictator Habré in custody; trial for crimes against humanity expected to begin soon.
Govt 3 May signed agreement with Chad on judicial cooperation in trial against former Chad president Hissène Habré, accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Casamance MFDC separatists 3 May abducted 12 mine-clearing employees from South African firm Mechem in Kailou village near Ziguinchor; Guinean authorities and armed forces reportedly involved in efforts to obtain their release; MFDC leader César Atoute Badiatte 27 May released 3.
Mediator in Casamance conflict Community of Sant’Egidio 12 April confirmed no arrest warrant exists against MFDC radical leader Salif Sadio, opening way for potential dialogue between govt and MFDC. President Sall reiterated call for Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC) to engage in negotiations with govt, welcomed former rebel leader Ousmane Gnantang Diatta’s support. 8 April attack on Thionck-Essyl village led to death of local MFDC commander; 26 April MFDC attack in Sindian saw killing of MFDC fighter reportedly wearing Gambian army fatigues. Senegal 17 April expelled Gambian dissident Kukoi Samba Sanyang.
At least 5 killed in clashes following raid on bank by Casamance separatist movement MFDC in Kafountine 3 Feb. Special tribunal to judge former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré officially unveiled 8 Feb.
National Assembly 19 Dec passed law authorising creation of special chamber to try former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré, created new anti-corruption investigative structure after son of former president Wade and several former senior ministers appeared in court on suspicion of embezzlement and fraud. Radical wing of Casamance separatist movement MFDC 9 Dec freed 8 soldiers; peace talks scheduled to resume in Rome in Jan. President Sall 14 Dec announced Casamance would be test-case for advanced decentralisation policy.
Police 8 Nov summoned ex-president Wade’s son Karim Wade over corruption allegations levelled against him while minister of international cooperation; supporters 15, 23 Nov gathered outside police station to protest investigation.
PM Abdoul Mbaye 10 Sept confirmed ongoing negotiations with Casamance separatist MFDC movement; MFDC rival factions led by Ousmane Niantang Diatta and César Atoute Badiate mid-Sept reportedly reached agreement on reunification. President Sall 17 Sept visited Mauritania to discuss Mali crisis, warned against terrorism in north.
President Sall 30 Aug announced proposal to abolish Senate to bolster flood funds. Govt, AU 22 Aug announced creation of joint ad-hoc procedure to try former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré. Police in Kédougou, SE, 13 Aug violently dispersed demonstrators protesting against death of youth while in police custody, at least 1 injured; rights groups denounced “acts of torture” and “cruel treatment” inflicted by gendarmes.
President Macky Sall’s Benno Bokk Yaakkar coalition won 1 July legislative elections, took 119 of 150 seats. MFDC leaders Salif Sadio and Cesar Badiate Atoute said ready for discussion with President Sall under Sant’Egidio mediation, 24 July met in Guinea-Bissau to start dialogue. Following reiteration of extradition demand by ICC, authorities 20 July said will create special court to try former Chadian president Habré. Following AQIM threat of retaliation if Senegal contributes to intervention in Mali, security forces 5 July arrested 3 Senegalese, 7 Mauritanians suspected of belonging to AQIM.
Casamance separatist (MFDC) leader Salif Sadio 1 June called for international mediation to resolve conflict, announced readiness to release prisoners if govt accepts Sant’Egidio mediators; President Sall 27 June expressed readiness for dialogue.
Casamance separatists (MFDC) 7 May raided Mané- counda, Kounaya villages, took 10 hostages; 13 May raided Brikama village. Defence Minister Augustin Tine 10 May said liberation of 5 soldiers held since Dec imminent. Head of Collective of Casa- mance’s Leaders, Pierre Goudiaby Atépa, 19 May launched appeal to MFDC military leaders for return to peace.
President Macky Sall 5 April named new cabinet following 2 April swearing-in ceremony, 15 April visited Gambia to seek President Jammeh’s assistance in finding peaceful solution to Casamance conflict; Sall 18 April signed new defence agreement reducing French troops in Dakar from 1,200 to 300, agreed €130 mn financial deal with France.
Election held 25 March in calm; Macky Sall elected president with 65% of votes; President Wade acknowledged Sall’s victory same day. Tensions high before polls; opposition and M23 movement 19 March accused Wade of buying votes; 12 other candidates rallied behind challenger Sall who early March called on supporters to be “vigilant”. Wade and Sall motorcades pelted with stones 22 and 15 March. 3 soldiers killed, 4 injured early March by Casamance separatists (MFDC) near Sédhiou; MFDC 15 March said Dakar not interested in peace.
Elections held 26 Feb in relative calm despite weeks of protests calling on President Wade to step down; early tallies suggest likely run-off between Wade and former PM Macky Sall, to be held 18 March. Opposition/civil society group “Movement 23” said 15 killed, 539 injured in anti-Wade protests since late Jan. Tear gas grenades thrown in Dakar Zawiya Mosque 17 Feb prompted clashes in Tijanyya Sufi Brotherhood ‘capital’ of Tivaouane. Sporadic Casamance separatist attacks in South continued; 4 soldiers killed, 8 injured 13 Feb in confrontation with MFDC near Sindian; 1 killed, 2 injured 25 Feb in ambush near Kaour.
Widespread protest over 27 Jan Constitutional Court ruling confirming legality of President Wade candidacy for 26 Feb election left 2 dead in Dakar, 2 in Podor, dozens injured countrywide. France 1 Feb warned Wade Senegalese army will not follow him if he tries to stay in power. Wade 11 Jan pardoned Malick Noël Seck, youth leader of opposition Socialist Party (PS) condemned 2 Jan for abusing Constitutional Council; Seck vowed to continue fight for release of Barthélémy Dias, other PS youth leader arrested after 23 Dec clashes with Wade supporters which left 1 dead. Situation in south remained tense: 1 killed during Casamance separatist MFDC attack on gendarmerie 3 Jan; 3 soldiers killed, 5 injured during operation in northern Casamance late Jan, landmine explosion wounded 7 near Diokadou 17 Jan.
President Wade 23 Dec confirmed intention to run for controversial 3rd term in Feb election; opposition parties 1 Dec failed to rally behind single candidate to challenge him. Increasing concerns over reported use of youths by political actors to intimidate rivals; leader of Socialist Party’s youth league Barthélémy Dias 23 Dec opened fire on reportedly armed Wade supporters, leaving 1 dead. Attacks by separatist Casamance Movement of Democratic Forces (MFDC) on military positions 13, 20 Dec killed 13 soldiers; 5 held hostage. During meeting boycotted by separatist hardliners, MFDC moderate Jean-Marie François Biagui 17 Dec announced plan to transform group into political party.
Separatist rebels 21 Nov killed 10 civilians in Casamance. President Wade 9 Nov offered opposition rivals Dieng and Niasse cabinet positions in exchange for cooperation in Feb 2012 elections; both rejected offer.
Opposition activist sentenced 20 Oct to 2 years prison for alleged threats, contempt of court for 10 Oct open letter to judges criticising “immoral” silence on President Wade’s decision to run for 3rd term.
Spokesperson for President Wade’s coalition Cap 21 7 Aug claimed homosexual lobbies had infiltrated M23, coalition of opposition parties and civil society organizations hostile to his run for 3rd term in 2012 presidential elections. End of extended electoral registration period 16 Aug. Constitutionalists connected to M23 23 Aug maintained Wade’s run for 3rd term unconstitutional. In 16 Aug visit to Gambia, Wade asked President Yahya Jammeh for help dealing with Casamance conflict; new attacks by Casamance separatists 20, 23, 25 Aug.
President Wade 14 July in first speech since June violent protests said confident he could win reelection, stoking fears he plans to run for 3rd term, which opposition claims is unconstitutional. Thousands joined opposition protest in Dakar 23 July despite ban on political protests in key public areas; pro-Wade rally took place same day. Wade 25 July named new minister to oversee elections instead of interior minister criticised by opposition for alleged bias.
Over 100 injured 23 June in clashes with security forces during unprecedented violent demonstrations against proposed constitutional amendments; changes would introduce elected post of VP, lower threshold for outright victory in presidential elections to 25%. President Wade same day withdrew proposal, but criticism continued over Wade’s controversial plan to run for third term in 2012. Protesters 27 June attacked govt buildings and offices of state electricity firm Senelec in Dakar and Mbour following prolonged power cuts. Govt 29 June deployed troops to halt riots, looting.
Upsurge in attacks by suspected Casamance separatist group MFDC in and around regional capital Ziguinchor. Gunfire between rebels and govt troops reported over weekend of 21 Aug on city outskirts. University shelled 25 Aug, 2 killed next day in one of 2 attacks on vehicles travelling into city.
Parliament 29 July approved controversial law extending presidential term from 5 to 7 years effective from 2012. Ruling PDS party 27 July promised to block critical media, urged boycott. 1 killed 22 July in violent robbery reportedly by separatist rebels in Casamance region. Constitutional amendment passed allowing prosecution of past war crimes in step towards trial of exiled ex-Chadian President Habré.
Protests 10 June in Ziguinchor over govt failure to resolve 25-year conflict in Casamance region. 1 killed mid- month by Casamance MFDC rebels near Tendième.
2 attacks Casamance, reportedly by separatist MFDC: newly-laid landmine killed 1, injured 20 bus passengers outside Ziguinchor 1 May; 2 soldiers, possibly several attackers killed in Djibioneove army base assault 20 May. Mutilation of 16 villagers early May, also Ziguinchor; responsibility uncertain.
Constitution changed to allow trial of ex-Chad leader Hissène Habré – under Dakar house arrest since 1990 - in Senegal for crimes against humanity during 9-year rule; France pledged funding. President Wade denied food crisis, blamed opposition for 30 March food price riots.
Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC) rebels briefly kidnapped 16 villagers in Bissine, G-B border, 16 March. Police beat protesters, arrested 24, in 30 March food price riots.
Casamance unrest continued: 40 vehicles attacked by some 100 suspected Movement of Democratic Forces in the Casamance rebels 26 Feb. Opposition Socialist Party resolved to contest 18 May local elections, after boycotting Aug 2007 parliamentary polls.
Presidential envoy to Casamance region, Samsidine Dino Némo Aïdara, killed 20 December in apparent political attack. Separatist Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC) to hold meeting 11 to 13 January, but culprit for Aïdara death unknown.
Opposition boycotted 19 August elections for newly created Senate, protesting presidential power to appoint 65 of 100 members. Results declared 28 August: ruling PDS won 34 of 35 seats.
Fighting continued in Casamance region between rebel factions and government soldiers. Attack by suspected MFDC fighters on Casamance highway wounded regional administrator and Chinese citizen.
Casamance violence continued. Government soldiers clashed with MFDC in Sindian 20 June and official wounded 25 June by suspected MFDC fighters. Legislative elections held 3 June, marred by opposition boycott and turnout rates under 35%. President Abdoulaye Wade’s PDS- led coalition took 131 (increase from 90) of 150 seats. Wade appointed former budget minister, Cheikh Hadjibou Soumare, new PM 19 June.
Sporadic clashes erupted between rival factions of Movement of Casamance Democratic Forces in Sindian area north east of Ziguinchor. Campaigning began 13 May for 3 June legislative election; opposition groups pledged boycott over President Wade’s refusal to change electoral process. Senegal Sporadic clashes erupted between rival factions of Movement of Casamance Democratic Forces in Sindian area north east of Ziguinchor. Campaigning began 13 May for 3 June legislative election; opposition groups pledged boycott over President Wade’s refusal to change electoral process.