Africa Matters is a blog that follows the news and offers analysis of African affairs. Our aim is to delve deeper into the issues of African politics and development. We don’t presume to be experts, and we don’t presume to have all the answers—we are just trying to ask the right questions.

Thursday, June 7

Senegal Update

Senegal, often lauded as a model for West African democracy, has faced several setbacks since Abdoulaye Wade was reelected President in February. Last week’s National Assembly elections were boycotted by the main opposition parties, leading to a sweep for the ruling Sopi Coalition. Voters stayed home in protest of irregularities in the presidential election and Wade’s failure to deliver on promises from the 2000 campaign. The resulting single-party legislature removes any effective check to Wade, who already has a strong grip on power. Ironically, Wade historically came to leadership seven years ago as a long-standing opposition candidate promising change.

Given a surge of would-be immigrants fleeing by boat, crumbling universities, a poor economy, and suppression of political and media critics, the election boycott is not surprising. Nonetheless, Senegal remains a relatively stable country, and recent investment and infrastructure projects give renewed hope to its fledgling economy, at least in the long-term.

South of the political turmoil in Dakar, renewed fighting between rival rebel groups in Senegal’s Casamance region has displaced thousands. Insurgents in the lush area sandwiched between the Gambia and Guinea Bissau have fought for increased autonomy for years, but a 2004 peace agreement seemed to end the conflict with Dakar and divisions within the MFDC, the key rebel group. While the clashes are between local militants, the fresh round of violence threatens to pull in government troops, a major step back in progress on the long-running, low-level insurgency.