ndiaye1_Cherkaoui SylvainAnadolu Agency via Getty Images_senegal protests Cherkaoui Sylvain/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

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.

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