WAPO Regional News,The Spark WEST AFRICA CONJUNCTURE: Senegal, 2024


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Three West African countries namely, Senegal, Guinea-Bissau and Ghana, would engage in democratic bourgeois elections in 2024. In Ghana and Guinea-Bissau, key presidential elections are scheduled to be held in December 2024 while Senegal’s presidential elections scheduled for February 2024 is on hold owing to the executive’s interference in the process[1].

There is no doubt as these three countries prepare to go to the polls, they have differing political and economic challenges. Some of the political challenges include police crackdown on protests and demonstrations related to arbitrary overt attempts by some leaders to extend their stay in power through expansive presidential power and term limits creating undue concerns about democratic principles and the peaceful transition of power.  On the economic front, hurdles range from intractable debt traps to poor economic performance though each of the countries is rich in natural resources and biodiversity. Again, the three countries have vulnerable indigenous peoples such as Bassaris of Senegal and Guinea as well Ghana whose democratic rights and access to universal adult suffrage have to be protected.

This current study carried between January 2023 and February 2024 focuses on Senegal given that its presidential election is much more imminent. The study is in two parts: Part One describes an outlook of Senegal in terms of the country’s resources and control whilst Part Two presents various perspectives and backgrounds to assist the reader appreciate the nuances driving the current election and the likely outcomes. It adopts the desk study approach of gathering data from existing resources and basic information comprising pressers, researches conducted by other institutions, articles, news and analyses, among other secondary data.

The study shows that the mass of the citizenry strongly yearns and supports youth-orientated, patriotic, anti-imperialist government that is able to prioritize socio-economic development, provide an opportunity for rebuilding social cohesion and particularly address the problems of youth unemployment, corruption, economic inequality, terrorism and insecurity. Thus, as the masses, particularly the youth strongly want a change of government (for Sonko-led coalition to come to power); the ruling Benno Bokk Yaakaar (BBY) coalition together with foreign interests want to maintain the Alliance Pour la République (APR) and its candidate for the sake of policy continuity. 

In the 2022 legislative election for members of the National Assembly, the ruling party lost several of its seats to the opposition ridding the former of its absolute majority. Currently, the legislative assembly has shifted from a supermajority for the ruling BBY Coalition to almost a parity with the opposition parties’ coalition. In the same vein, the election at the municipal level organized last year, 2023, saw massive loss of seats by the ruling BBY coalition resulting in the opposition coalition controlling majority of the seats in the main municipalities. The trend therefore portrays a positive shift of change amongst the Senegalese social milieu who have demonstrated a sense of hatred for Macky Sall’s administration and therefore ardently want Sall’s government out of power.

The trend notwithstanding, it was rather obvious that Macky Sall was at his game was courting a third-term bid. This angered particularly the youth who incessantly took to the streets to demonstrate against his government and the ruling coalition. Being compelled to rescind his intention to stand for the third term, Sall rather imposed Amadou Ba[2] on his ruling coalition. Members of the opposition also complained that the former socialist, Amadou Ba, who has now become an ardent student of the World Bank and the IMF, would only perpetuate the work of his former boss, Macky Sall, and indulge in looting of public resources when voted into power.

The study also shows that Sall’s premeditated attacks on Sonko[3] created so much turmoil and series of protests which led to several recorded deaths, suppression of press freedoms and intolerance of opponents. The reason for the demonstration and the blatant assaults on civilians who became critical of Sall’s government arose from the perception that Sonko’s arrest was politically motivated. In other words, Macky Sall and his government sought to intimidate Ousmane Sonko from competing in the presidential elections. Even independent observers maintained that Macky Sall’s administration has created a pattern, since 2019, of charging leading opposition candidates with criminal activity, thereby thwarting their candidacies[4].

 Ousmane Sonko

Coupled with these crises, Macky Sall’s government has not been able to address the challenge of unemployment as well as the coastal flooding and inland drought issues which have deprived about three-quarters of the workforce[5] who depend largely on the availability of arable land for their livelihood.   


As the presidential election draws nearer, several political parties have declared their intention to run and contest for power come March 24th, 2024. The country employs a two-round voting system which requires a winning candidate to garner more than 50 percent of the vote. The Constitution and Electoral Code mandate ‘…every candidate in an election who is presented by a legally formed political party, a coalition of legally formed political parties, or by a group of independent persons, must present a list of elector signatures.’[6]

In order for potential candidates or parties to get a bid to contest, each must first clear a number of electoral hurdles, among which is the stage of sponsorship[7]. At this stage, every candidate is required to obtain between at the least 0.8% and one percent (1%) of the electorates’ signatures from seven (minimum) of the country’s regions.

According to media reports, before the deadline could be announced Senegal’s Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations (the agency responsible for collecting deposits paid by candidates), had already received seventy-nine applications from potential candidates. Each of the 79 applicants had reportedly paid the required deposit of 30 million FCFA. However, most of the applicants were subsequently disqualified with the election authority raising issues of documents and ineligibility of some candidates to contest. Eventually, only 20 candidates were qualified to stay in the contest. According to reports of the Constitutional Council, among the approved candidates are Prime Minister Amadou Ba, former Dakar Mayor Khalifa Sall and former Prime Minister Idrissa Seck. Some prominent candidates who were disqualified include vibrant opposition leader Ousmane Sonko and Karim Wade, the son of former President Abdoulaye Wade.

The chronology of incidents preceding the presidential elections also make interesting reading. On 17 February 2023, Ousmane Sonko was apprehended while at a rally and taken to stand trial at a courthouse in Dakar. It would be recalled that Sonko’s arrest was due to a civil lawsuit against him by Senegal’s Tourism Minister for defamation and public insults. Following a series of protests regarding Sonko’s conviction, President Macky Sall indicated that he would not seek re-election for a third term. On 14 July 2023 while Sonko was announced as the presidential candidate for PASTEF, it was not clear as to whether or not he would be eligible to contest since he had been convicted of a two-year prison sentence in June 2023, a month earlier. While Sonko was in the midst of appealing his conviction at the Supreme Court, his party-the PASTEF- was also dissolved unjustly by the Sall’s government on 31 July 2023. This unfortunate incident obviously presents a challenge to a free and fair election.

 Massive protests break out following Sonko’s arrest

President Macky Sall went on to handpick Amadou Ba as candidate for the ruling Alliance for the Republic Party (APR) in September 2023. Subsequently, in November 2023, the PASTEF also nominated its Secretary-General Bassirou Diomaye Faye to replace Sonko as the presidential candidate. In January 2024, candidate Thierno Alassane Sall lodged a complaint against Karim Wade of being dual French-Senegalese nationality. However, he was later cleared by the French Government.

 Macky Sall appoints Amadou Ba

Although Sall is due to leave office in April 2024, government indefinitely postponed the election just a few weeks before the election. Government cited dispute over qualified presidential candidates as its reason. The announcement provoked protests in the country including chaos in the National Assembly and aggravating political tensions in Senegal. The Supreme Court went on to rule government’s decision as unconstitutional and asked a new date to be fixed as soon as possible. The election is now scheduled to be held on 24th March 2024.


Part One


Senegal has large reserves of iron ore, phosphate, gold, titanium, natural gas, fish, and peanuts and produces gold, natural gas and construction materials in significant amounts. The country’s major contributors to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) are phosphate mining, petroleum refining, fertilizer production, construction materials, agricultural and fish processing. Over the years, French companies and micro-businesses have accounted for about a quarter of Senegal’s GDP. Despite the abundance of phosphates, gold and natural gas in Senegal, control and ownership of these natural resources are predominantly in the hands of multinational international companies predominantly French and a few elite-owned local companies.

The Sabodala-Massawa project is reportedly owned by Endeavor Mining with about 90% stake and it is currently the largest producing gold mine in Senegal. Sabodala has produced more than 2.6Moz of gold from the country since the year 2009. The Mako Gold Mine, located in eastern Senegal, is also owned and operated by Petowal Mining Company, which is a subsidiary of Resolute Mining. Other players include AGEM IAMGOLD which has signed a 20-year concession with the government to operate the Boto Gold Mine, located on the Senegal border with Mali. The company has the capacity to produce an average of 130,000 ounces of gold annually over an 11-year projected mine life-span[1].


France continues to exude dominance over Senegal making it impossible for the latter to be economically independent. The country, like any other former colony, is solicited for instance to provide private funding to French politicians during elections in France. It is important to note that prior to Senegal’s political independence from France, the latter made a pact with the Leopold Senghor government regarding the foregoing. This kind of suffocating legal agreement has made it possible for France to exercise dominion and control over Senegal’s resources and finance. The agreements include the following terms: 

a)     First and foremost, the Pact set up the common currency which is the CFA Franc and it demands that Senegal must deposit 65% of her foreign exchange reserves and 20% for financial liabilities (making a total of 85%) in an “Operations Account” at the French Treasury in Paris.

b)     Furthermore, the agreement stipulates that France has original jurisdiction to buy or reject any natural resources found in the land of Senegal.

c)     In the award of government or public contracts in Senegal, French companies should be considered first, before any other company, even if the government can obtain better value for the same with companies from other countries.

The implications of these clauses are obvious. To begin with, Senegal has access to only 15% of its own money each year for national development. In the event that the 15% is not enough to fund such national developmental projects such as health centres, polyclinics, hospitals, schools, potable water supply, and educational facilities, Senegal has to borrow from the French Treasury at commercial rates even though that money is borrowed from Senegal’s own reserves. More disheartening is the fact that under this neocolonial arrangement, there is a ceiling to the level of credit available to the country. Senegal cannot borrow more than 20% of its own reserve with the French Treasury. To add insults to injury, the French Treasury each year has the sole prerogative to invest the reserves in the Treasury’s own name on the Paris Bourse.

With regard to the second clause, France has the audacity to dictate uneconomic prices far below on-going current market prices. The gravity of the terms is reflected in the fact that even if Senegal could get better prices from other countries, it cannot proceed to trade with those countries except France declines to buy those raw materials.

Related to the above is the first preference clause regarding public tenders and procurements. This is one of the reasons major levers of the economy are controlled by French companies and interests.


Throughout the year, Senegal has experienced days of violent clashes between civilians, particularly supporters of the major opposition leader and the security forces. Hundreds of protesters were reportedly injured and maimed, several others killed while the police arrested over five hundred people in different cities. At a point, access to internet was blocked while roadblocks were erected on major transport routes by security forces.

 Clashes between the Police and protesters


The widespread unrest in Senegal was triggered by the criminal conviction of the leader of PASTEF, Ousmane Sonko. His conviction was perceived by many as politically motivated and an effort by Macky Sall’s government to derail Sonko’s candidacy in the 2024 presidential elections since the conviction could bar him from contesting. A lot of people, including children, were wrongfully arrested by security authorities, brutalized and tortured. Their arbitrary arrests gave a glaring indication of repression of the rights of the people to assembly. In actual fact, the rights of Senegalese people to peacefully demonstrate and protest were clearly undermined by the government security apparatus.

On the flip side of events, all the accusations and subsequent conviction of Sonko made him gain more popularity, amidst Macky Sall’s dwindling popularity. Hence, upon speculations of Sall’s intended motive to go for a third term broader tensions loomed among the general public.   


Notwithstanding the immediate factors, political instability in Senegal results from underlying socio-economic roots. Living conditions have not noticeably improved although, as at October 2023, the annual rate of inflation is relatively low and had decreased to 2.4% (from 3.8% in September).[2] Investments in the extractive sectors as well as infrastructural projects have unleashed growth in the economy, however, such growth has not been reflected in the lives and livelihoods of the people. The people of Senegal for over the year have decried high cost of rent, transportation, electricity tariffs and fuel prices although the outburst of the people has been an exercise in futility.

 Again, many of the young people do not only feel disillusioned by the government but also there is a high sentiment of being socio-economically marginalized amongst them. As such, there is an increasing sense of hatred among the people, especially the younger generation, towards a government led by neo-colonial, aging and distant leaders. 

To make matters worse, Macky Sall’s administration has demonstrated efforts to suppress freedom of expression, curtail the opposition and keep his government in power instead of directing such efforts towards reviving the economy. The socio-economic disillusionment has resulted in a gravitation towards Ousmane Sonko who the people feel could rather build a better economy. Ousmane Sonko has a record of exposing offshore tax havens exploited by members of the elite in Senegal. Sonko did this whistleblowing act during his service as tax inspector and that lanced him into prominence. Then in 2014, he founded the PASTEF. Subsequently in 2019, Sonko was elected mayor of the southern city of Ziguinchor. Since then, he has been able to build a strong base in the south of Senegal and he is still gaining popularity among the youth across the country.


There exists an open conflict between the Senegalese military and the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MDFC) in Senegal’s southern Casamance region, a region with a culture distinct from the rest of Senegal. The rebellion began in 1982 and has been known to be one of the longest recurring separatist revolts in Africa. In January 2023, different media reports indicated that the clash between the separatist rebels from the MFDC (Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance) and the Senegalese government left 60,000 displaced people, nearly 5,000 victims and hundreds of deaths.


Casamance region has a population of about 1.5 million. The region lies in a part of Senegal that is geographically almost totally separated from the rest of the country by Gambia. In other words, Casamance is far closer to Gambia than the Senegalese port. The area is almost secluded from the developed hub of Senegal and so the area has lagged behind in development. Due to these reasons, the people of Casamance resort more to the black economy which goes a long way to benefit them. The conflict arising in Casamance is therefore noted to be fuelled by the trafficking of rosewood logs through Gambia to China. Though the rosewood specie has been declared extinct in Gambia since the year 2012, the country still remains one of the lead exporters to China owing to the thriving smuggling trade. Some environmental activists living in the area have given reports of rosewood trees cut secretly at night or in the daytime and transported with fake permits.

Part Two


Generally, the political spectrum of Senegal has been highly polarized between the socialists and the neoliberals for some time now. The Socialist bloc consist of the centre left Parti Socialiste (PS) founded by Léopold Sédar Senghor, Parti Démocratique Sénégalais (PDS), And-Jëf/PartiAfricain pour la démocratie et le socialisme (AND JEF/PADS), PASTEF, Ligue Démocratique-Mouvement pour le Parti du Travail, Front for Socialism and Democracy/Benno Jubël, Movement of Leftwing Radicals and FRAPP.

In 2008, there was a split in the PDS when some members of the PDS led by Macky Sall severed themselves over ideological and policy differences and joined the neoliberals. Later in 2012, a lot more members belonging to the PDS right and under the leadership of Abdoulaye Bathily, Mamadou Diop and Djibo Ka joined the APR further fragmenting and weakening the political left.

The Liberalist bloc, on the other hand, is under the leadership of Sacky Mall; a veteran of Senegalese politics. The neoliberalists are a group of political organisations whose worldview and principles are centred on free trade and market economy. The bloc is made up of the remnants of Parti Démocratique Sénégalais (PDS), Alliance pour la République (APR), Alliance des Forces de Progrès (AFP), Rewmi, JEF JEL, Union for Democratic Renewal (URD), Party for Unity & Rally (PUR) and National Democratic Rally (RND).

Since the turn of the century, there has been realignment of the balance of social and political forces in Senegal. Five major coalitions are now involved in the contestation for power within Senegal namely Benno Bokk Yakaar, Liberate the People, Wallu Sénégal, The Servants – MPR and AAR Sénégal.


The APR has been associated with the “Benno Bokk Yakaar” (BBY) coalition. Parties forming the BBY Coalition include Macky Sall’s Alliance pour la République (APR), Alliance des Forces de Progrès (AFP) led by Moustapha Niasse, Parti Socialiste (PS), Idrissa Seck’s Rewmi and the Bokk Gis Gis founded by Pape Diop. Key factors working for the coalition include its strong alliance with France and the maintenance of strong relations it has with the international community. The latter helps the coalition to garner financial support, both domestically and internationally.

Though the BBY coalition has been viewed as a favourite by several pundits, several issues remain unsettled by the coalition and the situation may stifle its chances of winning the 24th March presidential election and retain power. For example, the seething divisions within the ruling BBY coalition over the nomination of relatively outsider[3], Amadou Ba, as the party/coalition sole flagbearer appeared not to have been resolved adequately despite the several interventions from the Côte d’Ivoire ruler; Alassane Quattara. Other members of the ruling coalition are also unhappy of their treatment as junior partners and feel strongly about not being given a fair deal or chance during the selection of a successor to replace Macky Sall. In spite of the differences and the fact that the coalition/party has been riven with internal dissensions at the leadership, local branches and the grassroot membership levels, it is highly possible these unresolved issues will cost the ruling government the election. Matters on the ground have been made worse especially with the presidential camp not seem to be doing much to support Amadou Ba’s campaign. The foregoing nnotwithstanding, the BBY continues to enjoy the confidence of the captains of industry, most of the elite and of course French capital.


This is the coalition led by the gaoled Ousmane Sonko. The coalition is made up of PASTEF[4] (Patriotes Africains du Sénégal pour leTravail, l’Ethique et la Fraternité), PUR (Party for Unity & Rally) a right wing Islamic-based party founded by Serigne Mouhamad Moustapha Sy, AND (Alliance Nationale pour la Démocratie) led by Aida Mbodji, MTS (Manko Taxawu Sénégal) led by Khalifa Sall, and Déthié Fall’s PRP (Parti Républicain pour le Progrès).

 The Duo: Diomaye and Sonko 

At present, Liberate the People Coalition led by Ousmane Sonko proves to be the main rival of Macky Sall and his BBY allies. Though Ousmane Sonko is much liked by the youth as a generational leader, the coalition will have to work harder in the rural communities and ensure that wave of change which the youth yearn for results in votes for the coalition’s presidential candidate. One thing working for the coalition is its messages built around the ideals and values of building a prosperous and united Senegal. These messages of the central role of the Senegalese State in socio-economic development, promotion of peace and security have caught up with the youthful population who have bought into them and may become the game changer in this presidential election.

The other factor which will impact this election will relate to how the Casamance region votes. This is because the region has had a historical and significant bearing on previous elections. The conflict, which began in the early 1980s, has had implications for both local and national political discourse in Senegal especially as it affects voter sentiment and their political choices. It is well-known that Ousmane Sonko grew up in Casamance and has created a strong electoral base in the region. Over the years, he has emphasized efforts towards addressing the conflict in a bid towards promoting peace. For instance, in the 2019 presidential elections, while Macky Sall won the first round of voting with absolute majority with votes uniformly cast across the country, he rather won a minority in Casamance (38.72%) even though Mayor Abdoulaye Balde (who was affiliated to Sall) constructed the Senegambia bridge to provide easier access to the Casamance region. Sonko, at the time won a large majority in the region (about 57.25%)[5].

Given precedent events to the coming elections, it is most probable that Sonko’s coalition will reap a huge dividend in Casamance as a decider of who wins the presidency. The Sonko-coalition also enjoys the support of Guy Marius Sagna’s led Pan-African organization FRAPP (Le Front pour une révolution anti-impérialiste populaire et panafricaine).  Though FRAPP’s statutes do not permit it to take part in elections at the moment, it currently has a good relation with PASTEF and supports PASTEF’s political agenda.

Finally, it is clear that Candidate Bassirou D. Faye would benefit immensely from Sonko’s charisma and popularity. This places him in a better chance of winning the election in the first round. Ousmane Sonko himself has predicted a first-round victory for Diomaye should the elections be conducted void of fraud.


Three other coalitions are taking part in the March 2024 Presidential Elections. These are Wallu Sénégal, The Servants – MPR, and AAR Sénégal.

Wallu Sénégal

This coalition led by Abdoulaye Wade of the PDS has lost its potency with the departure of MTS and Bokk Gig Gis. MTS is now part of Liberate the People coalition led by Ousmane Sonko while Bokk Gis Gis has gone into alliance with BBY for the current election. These events have in turn devalued Wallu Senegal’s electoral influence and fortune in the coming election. The current members of the coalition are Parti Démocatique Sénégalais (PDS), Coalition JOTNA – Patriotes pour l’Alternative (JOTNA) and Congrès de la Renaissance Démocratique CRD).

The Servants-MPR

This coalition has only one seat in the present legislative assembly after the 2022 elections. It comprises relatively small parties like En Marche pour la Renaissance (MPR), Les Serviteurs, Mouvement Taxawu Liguey Kat Yi, and Diorbel D’Abord. The coalition is not expected to make an impact in the impending election.

AAR Sénégal

The Alternative for a Rupture Assembly (AAR) was formed in 2022 by Thierno Alassane Sall who is also the chair of the coalition. Its members include Republique des Valeurs (RV), Alliance Générationelle pour les intérêts de la République (AGIR), Ensemble pour le Travail, l’Intégrité et la Citoyenneté (ETIC), And Wattu Askan wi Ligeeyal Eleg (AWALE) and Mouvement Pour le Renouveau de l’Espoir et de la Transparence (PRET). This coalition is also not expected to make an impact.


Unfortunately, Candidate Amadou has been portrayed to the general public as an agent of continuity of Macky Sall’s policies and pro-French imperialism. Should the BBY coalition face an uphill task to retain executive power, it could be a reflection of Macky Sall’s own persona and the ruthless manner he bastardised various State and civil institutions in the run to the present election.

On the other hand, Liberate the People’s uncompromising anti-imperialist campaign messages directed to the electorate in the Wolof language, which promised to do away with the FCFA and establish a national currency, have resonated well with the populace and may carry the day. The likelihood for Sonko and his coalition winning a first-round victory is almost a reality.

In our own estimation, the current election scheduled to be held on March 24th is not too close to call to necessitate second round of voting by the electorate. The ruling coalition/party is more likely to lose this election; the main pointers were the outcome of the last legislative and mayoral/municipal elections held in 2022 and 2023. Besides, candidates Idrissa Seck of Rewmi Party has been put up by the BBY to reduce the votes of Candidate Bassirou D. Faye in areas where the BBY is weakest. Likewise, Khalifa Sall is expected to do same for the Sonko-led coalition in the Dakar metropolitan stronghold of the BBY. All told, the possibility of a clear winner emerging in the first-round is high unless the forces that be employ the tactics of intimidation, shenanigan and other underhand dealings to steal the emerging mandate.


Robin, N. (2018). The 2019 presidential election in Senegal: Electoral practices between permanencies, opportunities, and ruptures. Afrique contemporaine, 267-268, 187-204. https://www.cairn-int.info/journal–2018-3-page-187.htm.


Guy Marius Sagna, “Macky Sall: l’homme de la France au Sénégal et en Afrique’’, Dakar, le 12 février 2018, Ferῇent  https://fernent.blog4ever.xyz/macky-sall-lhomme-de-la-france-au-senegal-et-en-afrique












Africa Center for Strategic Studies, Senegal: February 25 (TBD*), January 17, 2024 https://africacenter.org/spotlight/2024-elections/senegal/

[1] https://energycapitalpower.com/senegals-mining-industry-a-cornerstone-of-the-national-economy/

[2] https://tradingeconomics.com/senegal/inflation-cpi

[3] Amadou Ba was a last-minute addition to the party as he came on the scene in 2022 when he was appointed as Prime Minister by Sall

[4] The populist Pan-Africanist party is called Les Patriotes du Sénégal or Patriots of Senegal was founded in January 2014 by young civil servants from the Senegalese public administration, the private sector, business people, education and diverse background, who at the time of formation were known to be novices or have never been in politics.

[5] Robin, N. (2018). The 2019 presidential election in Senegal: Electoral practices between permanencies, opportunities, and ruptures. Afrique contemporaine, 267-268, 187-204. https://www.cairn-int.info/journal–2018-3-page-187.htm

[1] But the election has been rescheduled for 24th March after the Court directed government to fix a date as soon as possible.

[2] Amadou Ba happens to be a former foreign and finance minister who was appointed by Sall to the position of Prime Minister after the BBY coalition lost about 43 seats in the National Assembly. Although, the position of Prime Minister was abolished in 2019, Macky reestablished it, with the appointment of Amadou Ba. His appointment as flagbearer was opposed by some leaders of the ruling BBY coalition who expressed that Amadou Ba was a last-minute addition to the party.

[3] The populist leader, Ousmane Sonko, was vociferous and took stances against public corruption and thievery of the public purse.

[4] In the previous elections, it was reported that leading opposition candidates including Khalifa Sall and Karim Wade (son of former President Aboulaye Wade) were barred from running in 2019 due to criminal allegations levied against them by the government.

[5] Africa Center for Strategic Studies, Senegal: February 25 (TBD*)

[6] Article 29 of the Constitution of Senegal

[7] These signatures are solicited from at least 2,000 sponsors. 

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