The political situation in Senegal is occupying regional and international headlines. The country “traditionally known as a bastion of democracy in Africa” is experiencing an unexpected political situation. The latter has gained momentum between international condemnations and internal protests following the interruption of the electoral process just a few days before a presidential election with enormous stakes. While for many years Senegal has been able to protect itself from the insecurity caused by the terrorist threat, despite being a neighbor to Mali and other countries in crisis, Dr. Bakary Sambe returns in this weekly Timbuktu Institute column to the risks to the country of possible electoral disputes or the violence that could ensue. The regional director of the Timbuktu Institute warns of the various risks documented in a new report to be published in the next few days. Speaking on the pan-African channel Medi1TV, he calls on the authorities and the political class to shoulder their responsibilities and to subscribe to the conditions for a peaceful political environment, as a prerequisite for pursuing the democratic trajectory of a country whose strategic positioning also exposes it to international rivalries and the most diverse forms of covetousness. He answers questions from Sanae Yassari.
Dr. Bakary Sambe, since the start of the electoral process in Senegal, you have been warning of the risks and dangers associated with disputes and litigation. The current situation, with the postponement of the presidential election to December 15, has made the Senegalese political scene even more complex and tense. In your opinion, what risks could such a situation expose this country, which has long been a model of democracy on the continent?
First of all, it must be said that it is most unfortunate that Senegal, known for its long tradition of democracy, has reached the point where a presidential election is being postponed just a few weeks before the ballot. The conflict-ridden and contentious nature of the current electoral process not only poses a serious threat to peace and security, but may also jeopardize the very viability of democracy for a long time to come. It is to be feared that the political violence that could result from a contentious electoral process could lead to instability in the sub-regional political and security environment. Our studies in Africa show that between 1994 and 2012, violence linked solely to disputed electoral processes directly caused over 5,000 deaths and several hundred thousand displaced persons and refugees, not to mention the enormous destruction and hundreds of thousands of victims of civil wars triggered by electoral disputes. Senegal needs to get its act together.
But Dr. Sambe, you seem to insist on the particular case of Senegal, referring to the regional security situation which, in your opinion, would make this now contentious electoral process an aggravating risk factor that could further expose Senegal and its stability. Could you elaborate on this aspect, which seems to have escaped many analysts?
On a strictly internal level, the systematic association of political violence with contentious electoral processes means that, by the date set, there will already be an increase in the level of political risk, putting a brake on foreign direct private investment, tourist flows and economic activity in general, not to mention the increased vulnerability of our borders. Let’s not forget that the current Malian crisis is, to some extent, the result of a combination of an internal political crisis and a security crisis that took advantage of institutional instability. While our country remains a luxury target, the dream target of the terrorist movements that have destabilized the region, this is not the time to get bogged down in a political crisis that could persist, a situation fraught with risks and which would plunge our country into the worst uncertainties.
So, faced with this unexpected situation in the country, what should be done to avoid, and I quote, “a stalemate that would precipitate the country’s tipping towards electoral violence and expose it further to security threats at a time when the regional situation remains most worrying”?
In order to protect Senegal from instability, we urgently need to take a proactive approach, despite all considerations, and aim first and foremost for a consensual political framework as a prerequisite for preserving democracy, peace and stability. We must not run the risk of electoral violence which, combined with the jihadist threat on our doorstep, would plunge Senegal into instability. The region doesn’t need another crisis. Did you know that between 1994 and 2007, more than 5,500 people were killed in contentious electoral processes in ten sub-Saharan African countries, including South Africa, Nigeria and Congo Brazzaville, not to mention the millions displaced? The political class in all its diversity, and first and foremost the President of the Republic, must be called upon to engage in urgent, but sincere and inclusive dialogue. Despite the gravity of the situation, we should perhaps not despair of the intelligence of the political class in all its diversity, so that at all costs we can avoid a stalemate that would be damaging not only to Senegal’s stability, but also to regional peace and security.
Source : Timbuktu Institute.