Senegal moves towards peace and security

An imperfect democracy that works, despite recent jitters in parliament


Senegal is becoming a security benchmark in Africa.

The mission "EU-Mediterranean Political Dialogue Programme: Migration&Climate Change", of the German Friedrich Naumann Foundation, has shown that the Republic of Senegal is a security benchmark in the absence of coups d'état and governmental stability, but under the threat of Islamic radicalism and transnational organised crime mafias. The Republic's 165-member parliament enjoys a high level of consensus when it comes to putting issues related to this area on the table, which strengthens the governance of its president, Macky Sall, by reinforcing the Senegalese security forces.

AFP/ SEYLLOU - Senegalese fishermen repair fishing nets on the beach near a platform under construction for the exploitation of a major gas discovery off the coast of Saint Louis, northern Senegal, 10 October 2022.

Recently, tension and nervousness exploded in the Senegalese Parliament (during the vote on the Interior Ministry's budget) over an irate parliamentarian Massata Samb. It is common knowledge that this peculiar juncture is a one-off and that Massata Samb slapped Amy Ndiaye Gniby of the ruling coalition Benno Book Yaakar (BBY), who responded "with arm-chairs". Nevertheless, the current president, Macky Sall, is arguably the figurehead representing the region's interests. A model of response based on preventive diplomacy that seeks to find genuine solutions rather than showboating.

PHOTO/ATALAYAR - The Friedrich Naumann Foundation and the Institute of Mediterranean Studies (IEMed) organised a conference to analyse the development and consequences of climate change in the region.

Abdoulaye Fall, a member of the European Commission's migration expert group, has described Senegal as a "safe country" due to its political and social stability. However, he predicts that climate change will lead to movements of people. To explain this situation, the also president of the Association Teranga (spirit of hospitality, in Senegalese), goes back to the 1970s, a period that saw a strong push, given that the Senegalese interior, agricultural and livestock farming areas, suffered a severe drought that provoked the first international migratory flows. . "The Senegalese armed forces have reinforced their presence in the country; Macky Sall has taken "the bull by the horns", as the defence expert Baye Abdou, Senegalese director of the African Press Agency believes. Implementing a solid anti-terrorist policy, taking into account the good functioning of the anti-terrorist cell created in 2003.  Today, Senegal is calling for a law on the prevention of Islamic extremism. This fight feels the need to be accompanied by other neighbouring countries in order to prevent future attacks.

AFP/ SEYLLOU - A man walks past a sign reading "Security" at the Dakar International Forum on Peace and Security (ISSAT) in Diamniadio, Senegal 6 December 2021.

The EU Security Commission in Dakar (Political and Cooperation Section), headed by security expert Christoph Pelzer, has ratified the existence of laws on immigration, although the most important challenge is the integration of the younger population into the labour market. The Senegalese government's number one priority is to provide jobs for young people in order to achieve social stability. The members of this Commission recalled that a migrant is always the victim of organisations that profit from the idealised dream of living in Europe, in search of better opportunities.  It can be said that Senegal has a legal immigration law and an irregular immigration law on paper still being debated in Parliament. 

Contrary to what many think, Africa moves within Africa, including climate migration, much more than towards the European continent. At the same time, Senegal, thanks also to its political stability, is known to be one of the most welcoming countries in Africa. In fact, the flow of migration into Senegal is higher than the flow out (64% compared to 20%), according to July 2022 data from DTM (Displacement Tracking Matrix). While migration has always been present in the Sahel as a way of adapting to seasonal patterns, variability in rainfall and increasingly frequent droughts are leading to more long-term or even permanent migration, according to the United Nations Human Rights. Office of the High Commissioner: "Advancing a rights-based approach to climate change resilience and Migration in the Sahel".

AFP/ SEYLLOU - Police officers outside the court in Dakar

According to the preliminary results of the IEMed (European Institute of the Mediterranean) study, "Climate Change and Migration", to which this correspondent has had access and which was presented recently in Madrid at the German Friedrich Naumann Foundation, due to the scarcity of water resources and global warming, forced displacement and mass exodus in the African region are foreseen as a high risk. The violent radical groups that operate in the region suggest that they could extrapolate their field of activity, but Senegal is a containment wall, thanks to the measures put in place by the government and the social structure (brotherhoods). "There is no direct link between climate change and the armed groups, which are trying to control the exploitation of oil, liquefied natural gas and other natural resources," said Xavier Aragall, head of IEMed's Immigration Programme. For Matías Ibáñez Sales, head of Sustainable Development and Regional Integration at IEMed, armed groups have been identified, with military and territorial interests, which could turn towards the mafias that manage migration and human trafficking. This situation has not yet occurred, but Ibáñez Sales presumes that, little by little, these guerrillas will play a role in Senegal, acting as an interlocutor for migrants.

AP/LEO CORREA - A girl carries a bucket of water from a community well in the village of Ndiawagne Fall, at one end of a project called the 'Great Green Wall' that was conceived as a way for Africa to fight climate change, in Kebemer, Senegal, 5 November 2021

The latest United Nations (UN) report, launched on 16 November in Geneva, shows that since 2019, the number of irregular migrants leaving the coasts of West Africa, and in particular the Senegalese, towards the Spanish Canary Islands has increased. Between January and August 2022, a total of 10,637 migrants arrived irregularly in the Canary Islands. Crossing the Atlantic from the West African coast to the Canary Islands is considered the deadliest route to Europe. With the growth of irregular crossings, incidents are also multiplying along the West African coast. Many migrants crossing the Atlantic Ocean find themselves in vulnerable situations and in need of protection, support and assistance after disembarkation.

PHOTO/FILE - Massata Samb slapped Amy Ndiaye Gniby of the ruling coalition Benno Book Yaakar (BBY), who responded, "with a chair"

Macky Sall, Senegal's head of state and president of the African Union, who instils the value of 'no war', has succeeded in forming a National Assembly that is moving towards tranquillity and security. The liberal APR party (the dominant partner), along with the other political parties (more than 80), is underpinned by the slogan "Standing together to maintain hope". Likewise, the Emerging Senegal Plan is a set of strategic policies for the Senegalese nation to be considered an emerging country by 2035, with an annual growth rate of 7-8% in the medium term. In addition, Macky Sall aims to turn the country into a logistical, industrial, mining, air and tourism hub for the region.

Senegal is a very particular country, with a high level of political engagement with civil society. A total of 14 legislatures in the National Assembly without coups d'état. In discussions on the table, they reach democratic consensus more often than not, although these days, it does not seem to be the same. The Senegalese National Assembly is an example to follow as a coalition of parties seeking solutions for the benefit of the citizens. This semi-presidential republic, marked by a very young and eager-to-work population, is the essence of the safest country in West Africa. Moreover, President Macky Sall is actively involved in ensuring stability in this sub-region (Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau and elsewhere).

PHOTO/ MAST IRHAM via REUTERS - Senegal's President Macky Sall arrives at the G20 Leaders' Summit in Bali, Indonesia, 15 November 2022

The Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom - through the meetings, gatherings and other events held these days in Dakar - gives a voice to this continent and has cooperated to generate a new momentum for liberalism in Senegal, the second most important country on the continent, "the gateway to Africa's development" after the Ivory Coast. His influence in the African region has made Guinean opposition leader Cellou Klein Diallo a strong example of liberal political education in Guinea. Elected vice-president of the Bureau of the Liberal International in 2018 and presidential candidate in 2010, 2015 and 2020 in Guinea, Cellou Dlein is pinning his hopes on the region's young population, which is under 30 years of age and accounts for 70% of the total. A population that he describes as "the energy of the continent".

AP/LEO CORREA - In this image taken with a drone, houses are seen between the Senegal River, above, and the erosion-affected Atlantic Ocean beach in Saint Louis

Asked by this correspondent, in an interview, why Europe should bet on the African continent, Cellou Dlein announced that Africa is the balance of the world for its great potential in natural resources that he hopes "will fall into the right hands"; for agricultural and fishing development; for being a free trade zone and for the desired improvement in public policies. He also explained that Africa is the great opportunity for Europe, although much remains to be done, such as perfecting the business climate and making legal security profitable, as well as assuming an infallible judicial independence that protects human rights and the proper functioning of political parties, together with greater social progress. "We must not overlook a very young population, willing to work and engage in dialogue, because it is through dialogue that solutions are found", concludes Cellou Klein in his interview. 

Carmen Chamorro García, CIP and ACPE director