Fear and Loathing in Senegal
President Macky Sall’s government has cracked down violently on recent countrywide demonstrations and restricted freedom of speech. It should instead seek to protect Senegal's hard-won democratic gains by de-escalating tensions and promoting economic recovery.
NEW YORK – Large-scale protests have swept Senegal since the beginning of March, reflecting widespread anger at corruption, high unemployment, and what many regard as a politically motivated rape charge against opposition leader Ousmane Sonko (he denies the accusation). President Macky Sall’s government has cracked down violently on the demonstrations – the West African country’s largest in a decade. At least eight people have died, and restrictions on freedom of speech have been imposed.
Sall’s government should step back and reconsider its approach. Rather than threatening the country’s hard-won democratic gains, it should de-escalate tensions and promote economic recovery.
Senegal’s long march toward democracy began seven decades ago, with demands for independence from French colonial rule. The country achieved that goal following a 1960 power-transfer agreement with France, and the poet Léopold Sédar Senghor became its first president.