John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

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Senegal’s Elections are Good News

by John Campbell
March 26, 2012

Supporters of Senegalese opposition presidential candidate Macky Sall celebrate in the capital Dakar March 25, 2012. (Joe Penney/Courtesy Reuters)


A week following the dark news of a military coup in Mali, Senegal’s presidential runoff is profoundly encouraging for African democrats. Incumbent president Abdoulaye Wade has conceded to, and congratulated, opposition candidate Macky Sall following the March 25 presidential runoff. The press reports that the elections were calm. Though election observers have yet to comment, based on press reports their findings are likely to be favorable.

Macky Sall, a long-time politician, campaigned on a platform of economic reform and improved service delivery. President Wade’s effort to manipulate the constitution so that he could run for a third term was widely resented and probably contributed to Sall’s victory.

Senegal is relatively close to Europe and to the U.S. With its splendid beaches, its elegant capital city of Dakar, and its fame as the home of supermodels, the country is popular with Western, especially European tourists. Yet, it shares many or most of the developmental challenges of its neighbors and also has some that are largely unique. For example, there is an informal mining sector with few protections for workers that serves as a magnet for workers from its poorer neighbors. Dakar was designed by the French to be the capital of its enormous empire, French West Africa, rather than of a relatively small state.

Yet, ever since independence in 1960, Senegal has chosen the democratic approach to its politics, and it has never been disfigured by a military coup. The presidential elections of 2012 show that fifty-one years of credible elections and strengthening political institutions has deeply rooted a democratic culture.

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  • Posted by Hank Cohen

    President-elect Sall has been quoted as saying that his first act upon taking office will be to visit Guinea-Bissau and the Gambia. This is very important. He knows that the answer to the Casamance insurgency lies in those two neighboring countries, especially the Gambia. Among his many failures was Abdoulaye Wade’s inability to find a solution to the Casamance rebellion.

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