by Abigail Francis, Genocide Watch
Dancers in Senegal. Credit: Anton Ivanonov Shutterstock.com
Senegal Country Report
Since independence in 1960, Senegal has been one of the most stable and democratic countries in Africa. Lacking natural resources, its greatest strength has been its educated population. Senegal has been a leader in human rights in the United Nations, where top human rights officials have been Senegalese. However, the population is poor. It ranks 170th in the 2022 world Human Development Index of the UNDP.
The Wolof are the majority ethnic group in Senegal. Over 90% of the Senegalese population is Muslim. The Casamance region is geographically and culturally separate from the rest of Senegal. Differing from Senegal's French colonial history, this region was a Portuguese colony. Most people of the Casamance region do not belong to the Wolof ethnic group. Casamance has a large Christian population.
In 1982, sentiments of isolation and neglect led to the formation of the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC), a guerrilla insurgency group demanding independence. Years of civil war displaced an estimated 150,000 people. The Senegalese government and the MDFC signed a peace agreement in 2022. Those returning to the region suffer from damaged housing, farmland, and food supplies. Some separatist members of the rebel group have continued fighting. In January 2022, the MFDC killed two Senegalese soldiers and took nine hostages.
Members of the LGBTQ community face discrimination. The Senegalese penal code prohibits “acts against nature” between those of the same sex. Those convicted can be imprisoned for up to five years. In 2020 lawmakers introduced a law that would lengthen this sentence to 10 years. According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, 96% of Senegalese believe that homosexuality should not be accepted by society. LGBTQ community members in Senegal report a strong feeling of being unsafe.
Politicians and police officers are promoting violence against the LGBTQ community. Harassment has caused members of the community to go into hiding. It is illegal for LGBTQ groups and organizations to hold meetings. The government rejects registration for NGOs defending LGBTQ rights.
In 2022 there were protests against President Macky Sall following the arrest of the progressive opposition leader Ousmane Sonko. Sonko is ineligible to run in the upcoming presidential election because he has been charged with “corrupting the youth.” Violent protests resulting from President Sall’s jailing of political opponents and his social media ban have caused 16 deaths and 500 arrests.
Newborn children are under threat due to infanticide. Stigma and shame from cultural intolerance of premarital relations are often the cause. Infanticide is the second most common crime committed by women in Senegal.
Genocide Watch considers Senegal to be at Stage 1: Classification, Stage 3: Discrimination, and Stage 6: Polarization in the Ten Stages of Genocide.
Genocide Watch recommends:
The Senegalese government and international donors should provide resources to displaced people returning to the Casamance region.
The United Nations, Senegalese, and international human rights NGOs should oppose legislation targeting LGBTQ people.
The Senegalese government should stop its repression of opposition political groups and lift bans on social media.
The Senegalese government should provide mental health resources to unmarried pregnant women.