April 20, 2024

Lukmaan IAS

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UNREST IN SENEGAL: POLITICAL POSTPONEMENT AND DEMOCRATIC DILEMMA

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TAG: GS 2: INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

THE CONTEXT: The recent surge of protests and political turmoil in Senegal has brought the West African nation into the global spotlight.

EXPLANATION:

  • Triggered by the postponement of Presidential elections and subsequent clashes between opposition leaders and riot police, the crisis raises questions about the nation’s democratic legacy.

Background to the Crisis

  • President’s decision to postpone the Presidential elections scheduled for February 25 has been met with widespread discontent.
  • The grounds for the delay revolve around a dispute between the National Assembly and the Constitutional Council regarding the selection of candidates.
  • The contentious decision has effectively granted President an additional 10 months in office, resetting the election date to December 15.
  • Opposition legislators, expressing their fury over the deferred elections, were physically removed from the National Assembly by riot police.
  • The manner in which the government-packed house facilitated the postponement intensified the opposition’s grievances, leading to heightened tensions across the country.

Current Unrest and Recent History

  • The ongoing unrest mirrors the violent clashes witnessed in Dakar in the preceding year, deemed the worst in decades.
  • Amnesty International reported over 20 lives lost and hundreds injured during the 2021 protests.
  • The violence erupted following the imprisonment of leading opposition candidate, known for his anti-corruption stance and resistance against French influence.
  • In January of the current year, the Constitutional Council barred a leading opposition candidate from participating in the Presidential race, intensifying the opposition’s dissatisfaction.
  • President’s claim of eligibility for a third term, based on a reinterpretation of constitutional timelines, has further fueled speculation about his political maneuvering.

Senegal’s Democratic Record

  • Historical Democratic Stability
    • Senegal, until recent events, held a distinguished record as the only coup-free West African nation.
    • Since gaining independence in 1960, the country has experienced smooth transfers of power under a multi-party democratic system, distinguishing it from its neighbors.
  • Regional Leadership in Democracy
    • President, instrumental in ECOWAS missions for democratic transitions, played a crucial role in the Gambia’s 2017 intervention to remove Yahya Jammeh.
    • Senegal’s historic commitment to promoting democratic values in the region has faced a significant setback with the current crisis.

Implications and Regional Context

  • A Break from Regional Stability
    • Senegal’s decision to delay elections and the subsequent unrest marks a departure from the country’s traditional role in promoting regional stability.
    • As military takeovers grip neighboring nations, Senegal’s deviation raises concerns about the potential regression of democratic values in the region.
  • Call for International Reconsideration
    • The return of military dictatorships in African countries during the 2020s prompts a reconsideration of the traditional role of global powers in the region.
    • Senegal’s pivotal position in advocating for democracy in West Africa is now under scrutiny.

Senegal:

  • Senegal is a West African country that shares its northern border with Mauritania, its eastern border with Mali, its southern border with Guinea and Guinea-Bissau, and its western border with the Atlantic Ocean.
  • To the northwest, it surrounds the small country of The Gambia, creating an enclave around the Gambia River.
  • Senegal spans an area of approximately 196,712 km2 (75,951 mi2).

Conclusion

  • The unfolding crisis in Senegal, characterized by political postponement, protests, and the erosion of democratic norms, poses a formidable challenge to the nation’s historical legacy.
  • As the international community observes, the outcome of this crisis may not only impact Senegal’s democratic standing but also reverberate across a region grappling with the resurgence of authoritarian rule.
  • The need for a nuanced and strategic approach to address the complexities of the situation is paramount.

SOURCE: https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/why-have-fresh-protests-erupted-in-senegal-explained/article67861530.ece

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