Last updated: 3 June 2024


Following the ruling of the Constitutional Court for Macky Sall to schedule the election before his term ends, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, who is an ally of the main opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, was elected on March 25, 2024 as Senegalese president. A new government of 25 ministers, led by Prime Minister Ousmane Sonko, plans to implement bold changes in the country, including to the judicial system. A national dialogue aiming at strengthening the judicial system is now ongoing. Senegalese civil society expects increased respect for human rights and rule of law as well as guarantees for an enabling environment for civil society and freedom of speech under the new government. Please see the News Items section below in this report for additional details.


The tradition of associations is deeply entrenched in Senegalese culture, which is why almost all Senegalese participate in an organization, whether it is family-based, professional, political or religious. The first contemporary forms of associations, or non-governmental organizations (NGOs), date back to 1921 and were often cultural and sports-oriented. During the French colonial period, trade unions were also a common form of association.

With the drought of the 1970s, organizations devoted to development began to emerge. Their numbers grew in the 1980s because of the increase in economic programs designed to support the poorest populations of Senegal. In the 1990s, the first human rights organizations were established, and they played a major role in the country’s democratization processes. The strong mobilization of women’s organizations in the 1990s and early 2000s also paved the way for important gains in gender equality, especially with the passing of the Law on Gender Parity in 2010.

Today, Senegalese civil society is strong and capable of defending human rights and the interests of the most vulnerable local populations, especially those in rural areas. The advocacy of Senegalese NGOs resulted in Senegal joining the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) in 2013. Senegalese civil society is regulated by a generally favorable legal framework, with organizations carrying out their activities freely so long as they respect the laws and regulations in force.

A large number of NGOs have registered with the Ministry of the Interior, but many unregistered organizations are also active. NGOs are defined as “non-profit private associations or organizations whose goal is to offer support to development in Senegal and that are accepted in this capacity by the government.” They are regulated by the Civil and Commercial Obligations Code (CCOC) and Decrees No. 96-03 and No. 2015-145.

In 2019, Macky Sall was declared president by the Constitutional Council for what was expected to be his second and last term, which would have lasted five years as stated in the Constitution. Sall often used his majority at the National Assembly and his influence over the judicial system to avoid serious investigations of corruption and to promote politically motivated changes to electoral laws, while encouraging prosecutions of investigative journalists, activists and the main opposition leader Ousmane Sonko.

Sonko was barred from participating in the legislative elections in 2022 and was arrested on July 31, 2023 on charges of fomenting insurrection and political violence. His political party was also dissolved and hundreds of his supporters were arrested and detained without trial. Furthermore, on February 3, President Sall suddenly announced the postponement of the February 25 election. However, the Constitutional Court reacted immediately by enjoining Sall to hold the election at the earliest date possible before the end of his presidential term on April 2.

Ultimately, the March 25, 2024 election was won by Bassirou Diomaye Faye, who is an ally of Sonko and became the fifth and youngest-ever President of Senegal. He has heralded a new era for democratic consolidation after three years of unprecedented political tension. A new government of 25 ministers led by Sonko was formed on April 5, 2024 with the aim to provide accountability, reset the economy, and transition towards increased political freedom, social inclusion, and sovereignty over natural resources. One of the first major decisions taken by newly elected President Faye and Prime Minister Sonko on May 28, 2024 was to organize a national dialogue to promote more transparency, accountability and efficiency in the judiciary system. This may impact the civic space positively.

Organizational Forms
Associations, Foundations, and NGOs
Registration Body
Ministry of Interior (Associations); Ministry of Finance (Foundations): Line Ministry (national NGOs); Ministry of Foreign Affairs (international NGOs.)
Approximate Number
There are approximately 11,600 associations: 5,000 community associations; 2,500 sporting and cultural associations; 2,000 religious associations; 700 professional associations, including 250 trade unions, 300 educational, and 150 health associations; and more than 200 political associations.

According to figures provided by the Directorate of Community Development of the Ministry of the Family, 487 registered NGOs work in Senegal, including 303 national organizations and 184 foreign organizations.

Barriers to Entry
To gain NGO status and enjoy all the benefits that status, including exemptions, the organization must have existed for two years as an association.
Barriers to Operations/Activities
Groups whose goal and activities are contrary to penal laws or directed against “public order” are prohibited.
Barriers to Speech and/or Advocacy
No legal barriers.
Barriers to International Contact
No legal barriers.
Barriers to Resources
No legal barriers.
Barriers to Assembly
72 hours advance notification requirement; restrictions on places where participants may gather.
Population 17,923,036 (2022 est.)
Capital Dakar
Type of Government Federal Republic
Life Expectancy at Birth Total population: 69.96 years; male: 68.23 years; female: 71.77 years (2022 est.)
Literacy Rate Total population: 51.9%; male: 64.8%; female: 39.8% (2017 est.)
Religious Groups Muslim 97.2% (most adhere to one of the four main Sufi brotherhoods), Christian 2.7% (mostly Roman Catholic) (2019 est.)
Ethnic Groups Wolof 39.7%, Pular 27.5%, Serer 16%, Mandinka 4.9%, Jola 4.2%, Soninke 2.4%, other 5.4% (includes Europeans and persons of Lebanese descent) (2019 est.)
GDP per capita $3,300 (2020 est.)

Source: The World Factbook. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency.

Ranking Body Rank Ranking Scale
(best – worst possible)
UN Human Development Index 169 (2023) 1 – 193
World Justice Project Rule of Law Index 60 (2023) 1 – 139
Foreign Policy: Fragile States Index 80 (2023) 179 – 1
Transparency International 70 (2023) 1 – 180
Freedom House: Freedom in the World Status: Partly Free
Political Rights: 28
Civil Liberties: 39
Free/Partly Free/Not Free
40 – 1
60 – 1
100 – 1

International and Regional Human Rights Agreements

Key International Agreements Ratification* Year
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Yes 1978
Optional Protocol to ICCPR (ICCPR-OP1) Yes 1978
International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) Yes 1978
Optional Protocol to ICESCR (OP-ICESCR) Yes 2009
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) Yes 1972
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Yes 1985
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (OP-CEDAW) Yes  2000
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) Yes 1990
International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (ICRMW) Yes 1999
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) Yes 2010
Regional Treaties
African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) Yes 1982
African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child Yes 1992
Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community
Yes 2001
Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa
Yes 2003
Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights
Yes 2003


* Category includes ratification, accession, or succession to the treaty

Constitutional Framework

Senegal is a state under the rule of law and committed to the principles defined in the preamble of the Constitution  of January 22, 2001. Article 8 of the Constitution guarantees all citizens fundamental individual liberties, economic and social rights, as well as collective rights, including the freedom of association. Article 12 states that all citizens have the right to freely form associations, economic, cultural, and social groups, as well as societies, on the condition of respecting the formalities declared by the laws and regulations.

A constitutional reform voted in March 2016 includes 15 points of modification related to presidential mandate, the composition of the Constitutional council, democratic accountability and new civil rights.

National Laws and Regulations Affecting Sector

Several laws have been passed to implement the Constitutional provisions, including, among others, the following:

– Basic Law No. 65-60 of July 21, 1965, establishing the Penal Code;
– Law No. 68-08 of March 26, 1968, establishing the Civil and Commercial Obligations Code (CCOC), which in 1968 took the place of the French Law of July 1, 1901 on Associations, which remained in effect after Senegal gained independence in 1960;
– Law No. 76-040 of January 16, 1976, on Associations with Goals of Popular Education, Sport, and Culture;
– Decree No. 76-199 of February 17, 1976, Setting the Conditions for Granting the Recognition of Public Utility to Associations;
– Law No. 79-02 of January 4, 1979, Anticipating the Dissolution of any Association whose Activities Harm Public Order;
– Law No. 81-77 of December 10, 1981, on Racial Discrimination, Anticipating the Dissolution of any Association whose Activities are in whole or in part Devoted to Practicing Social, Ethnic, or Religious Discrimination or Inciting such Practices;
– Law No. 84-37 of May 11, 1984, on Economic Interest Groups;
– The Law establishing the Labor Code establishes the freedom to form trade unions as non-profit associations for the defense of the professional and moral interests of their members; and
– Decree No. 96-103 of February 8, 1996, amending Decree 89-775 of June 30, 1989, Setting the Modalities of Intervention of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs);
– Decree No. 2010-1490 of November 10, 2010, amending Decree No. 96-103 of February 8, 1996, setting the modalities of intervention of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).
– Decree No. 2012-554 of May 31, 2012, related to accreditation for election observation in Senegal.
– Decree No. 2015-145, of February 4, 2015, amending Decree No. 96-103, of February 8, 1996, related to the submission of a bi-annual investment program for NGOs intervening in Senegal and to NGO accreditation.
– Decree No. 2015-145of February 4, 2015 related to the submission of a bi-annual investment program and the control of the sources of funding sources of NGOs interventions.
– Law No. 2016-30 modifying the Penal Code, including combatting terrorism.
– Law No. 2016-35 on the Senegal National Budget for 2017
– Law No. 2017-11 updating the electoral law for the election of the President of the Republic, the deputies, and local councils.
– Law No. 2017-15, instituting a National Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Services, and regional bodies voted to ensure the compliance of commerce chambers to the new economic environment.
– Decree No. 2016-1536 instituting the ECOWAS biometric ID card for all Senegalese citizens.
– Law n° 2017-12, modifying the Electoral Code prior to the 2019 presidential election
– Law n° 2017-27, on press freedom
– Law n° 2018-28, regulating all electronic communication activities from or in direction to the national territory
– Law n° 2010-11, setting gender equality between women and men in all elective and semi elective assemblies
– Law n° 2010-15, called Social Orientation Law for the protection and promotion of people with disabilities

Pending NGO Legislative / Regulatory Initiatives

We are unaware of pending legislative/regulatory initiatives affecting NGOs at this time.  Please help keep us informed; if you are aware of pending initiatives, write to ICNL at

Organizational Forms

The following legal forms exist:

A. Associations

Associations are governed by the provisions of the Civil and Commercial Obligations Code (CCOC) of 1968. They are formed without any formality other than registration with the Directorate of General Affairs (DAGAT) of the Ministry of the Interior after their application materials are transmitted to DAGAT by the regional governors. Once recognition is obtained, associations must also register at the Directorate of Statistics to obtain a national identification number.

Associations of Sport and Culture (ASCs)

ASCs are established by youth in the same urban community (quartier) and governed by the provision of Articles 821 of Law n° 68-08 and Decree n° 76-040, which stipulate the profit from their income-generating activities must not be shared among the members. ASCs and associations contributing to public health can receive subsides from the state and local councils under Article 821, Paragraph 3, of the CCOC even when they are not recognized as public utility.

Professional Trade Unions

Professional Trade Unions are governed by Article 6 of the Labor Code. People practicing the same profession or related professions can form a Professional Trade Union. Three categories are distinguished among Professional Trade Unions, however: federations of employers, unions of salaried workers, and unions of informal sector workers.

Basic community organizations (BCOs)

BCOs are organizations working essentially on a local level that do not have formal status. There is no defined legal framework for these organizations, although they are very widespread, especially in small neighborhoods and rural areas. They have become valuable interlocutors in their fields of activity, such as health, child protection, and rural economic affairs.

B. Foundations

Foundations are legal entities comprised of at least one person and having assets intended for the pursuit of a general interest goal. They are governed by:

– Law No. 95-11 of April 7, 1995, instituting the foundation of public utility in Senegal; and
– Decree No. 95-415 of May 15, 1995, applying the aforementioned law.

The Ministry of Finance exercises administrative oversight of foundations that are recognized as being of “public utility,” while technical oversight is exercised by the ministry under which the foundation falls.  The state designates the representatives who can sit on the board of the foundation.

C. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs)

NGOs are defined as “non-profit private associations or organizations whose goal is to offer support to development in Senegal and that are accepted in this capacity by the government.” They are governed by the CCOC, and Decrees No. 96-103 and No. 2015-145.

Public Benefit Status

There are two kinds of special status recognized by the law in Senegal. First, an association may be recognized as “public utility” according to Decree No. 76-193. Second, an association may obtain the status of an “NGO” after receiving approval from the Ministry of Interior following a probationary period of two years of existence as an association. The CCOC recognizes the special status of NGOs (Article 820) and for authorized foreign associations (Article 825).

In order for an association to receive recognition of “public utility” status, the following conditions must be met: (i) the association’s activities must have sufficient size and influence; (ii) the field of activity must correspond to a public interest; (iii) the financial situation must be healthy; (iv) the functioning of the association must be democratic and organized according to statutes; and (v) the association must have autonomy of decision-making, especially vis-à-vis public authority.

To obtain the status of an “NGO,” an association must have existed and performed activities in Senegal for two years. The organization sends a letter of request for approval as an NGO, to which is attached the list of activities for the previous two years of existence. This list also must include (i) the governing statute of the association in two copies with the address of the headquarters; (ii) the receipt of declaration for Senegalese associations (for foreign organizations, the authorization or certificate of registration from the country of origin); (iii) the list of the main members of the directive organ with the exact indication of their age, nationality, profession, and address; (iv) a memorandum presenting the private association or organization making the request; and (v) a program of activities stating possible financial sources.  Furthermore, the association must also file an investment program, which describes what the organization will do as an NGO and the budget to fund its programs, for approval to the Minister of Finance after consultation with a commission formed for this purpose.  The program must have an official duration of two years, at the end of which a joint government-NGO evaluation is organized. Fiscal benefits of NGO status include exemption from duties and taxes on supplies, materials, and equipment, as well as temporary admission of utility vehicles acquired or purchased locally or imported for implementation of the NGO’s programs.

Public Participation

Article 12 of the Constitution of Senegal affirms that all citizens have the right to freely form associations, economic, cultural, and social groups, and societies as long as they respect relevant laws and regulations. Several relevant laws and regulations affecting public participation include the following:

  • Law n° 76-040 of January 16, 1976, on Associations with Goals of Popular Education, Sport, and Culture;
  • Decree n° 76-199 of February 17, 1976, on Setting the Conditions for Granting the Recognition of Public Utility to Associations;
  • Law n° 79-02 of January 4, 1979, on Anticipating the Dissolution of any Association whose Activities Harm Public Order;
  • Law n° 81-77 of December 10, 1981, on Racial Discrimination, Anticipating the Dissolution of any Association whose Activities are in whole or in part devoted to Practicing Social, Ethnic, or Religious Discrimination or Inciting such Practices;
  • Law n° 84-37 of May 11, 1984, on Economic Interest Groups;
  • Law n° 2010-11, of May 28, 2010 on Setting gender equality between women and men in all elective and semi-elective assemblies;
  • Law n° 2010-15 of July 6, 2010 (Social Orientation Law) for the protection and promotion of people with disabilities; and
  • Decree n° 2012-554 of May 31, 2012, related to accreditation for election observation in Senegal.

Senegalese laws and regulations generally protect the participation of marginalized groups. The inclusion of minority ethnic or religious groups in civic participation derives from a certain national consensus, which is exemplified by the use of local languages to convey official decisions and messages to various communities. NGOs likewise provide information and engage in training activities with various target groups, including citizens who have not received formal education.

The LGBTI community, however, is restricted from civic participation. For example, the Penal Code prohibits “unnatural acts” that can result in five years in prison, which is known to have a chilling effect on LGBTI advocacy. NGOs that have been forced to refrain from engaging in LGBTI advocacy nevertheless have complained that other human rights groups have abandoned them under pressure from anti-LGBTI traditionalist and religious groups. One way Senegal’s LGBTI community circumvents restrictions on establishing a NGO is to register as a NGO that campaigns against HIV/AIDS and cares for people affected by HIV/AIDS. In addition, in the period before the 2019 elections, reports emerged of a wave of politically-motivated arrests of LGBTI people. Five years later, during the visit of French far-left politician Jean Luc Melenchon to Senegal in May 2024, religious figures and other activists criticized Ousmane Sonko for providing Melenchon a platform to speak on the topic of LGBTI rights at University Cheikh Anta Diop.

Barriers to Entry

Freedom of association is constitutionally recognized. The registration of an organization with the administrative authority is not mandatory.  Indeed, many associations operate as unregistered groups.

Senegalese law does impose certain barriers on the permissible purposes that an organization can pursue. Article 4 of the Constitution requires organizations “to respect the Constitution, as well as the principles of national sovereignty and democracy. It is forbidden for them to identify themselves with a race, an ethnic group, a sex, a sect, a language, or a region.” In addition, Article 5 forbids any act of “racial, technical, or religious discrimination that can harm the internal security of the state or the territorial integrity of the Republic, public order, or the republican nature of the state.” Lastly, Law 79-02 of January 4, 1979, provides for the dissolution of any association, registered or not, whose activity “harms public order.”

LGBTI groups are also not allowed to register as associations. As stated by Article 319 of the Penal Code, same sex activity is illegal in Senegal. The US Department of State’s Human Rights Report on Senegal, however, noted that “the law was rarely enforced.”

To attain the status of an NGO, the requesting association must have performed activities on the national territory and have existed for two years.  The organization sends a letter of request for approval as an NGO, to which is attached the list of activities for the previous two years of existence. This list also must have (i) the statutes of the association in two copies with the address of the headquarters; (ii) the receipt of declaration for Senegalese associations; for foreign organizations, the authorization or registration certificate from the country of origin; (iii) the list of the main members of the directive organ with the exact indication of their age, nationality, profession, and their address; (iv) a memorandum presenting the private association or organization making the request; and (v) a program of activities stating possible financial sources.

There is no particular restriction on registering foreign NGOs. However, they must not pursue goals contrary to international conventions signed and ratified by Senegal and international treaties for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Barriers to Operational Activity

Paragraph 2 of Article 12 of the Constitution provides that groups whose goals and activities are contrary to penal laws or directed against “public order” are prohibited. With the exception of these two limitations, associations are free in defining their goals, their internal structure, and their activities. Since 2000, Senegal has not forced the dissolution of any NGO. Decree No. 2015-145 emphasizes NGOs’ compliance with reporting procedures and the prerogative of the Government to control the funding sources of their activities.

However, in early November 2018, the Ministry of Interior notified the NGO, Lead Africa Francophone, of the withdrawal of its accreditation for “participation in irregular funding of operations of an association” in connection with the vibrant youth association called Y’en Marre. Prominent NGOs (COSCE, Amnesty International, RADDHO, Article 19, M 23 among others) reacted by establishing a coalition to defend the right of association in Senegal.

In June 2021, the National Assembly voted in an emergency procedure in favor of a law modifying the Penal Code and the Penal Procedure Code. This came after a prior draft law was issued by the Government. The Movement for the Defense of Democracy (M2D) created by opposition parties rejected the law and organized protests against the law in Dakar. In addition, human rights and labor organizations expressed their concern that the new law would restrain freedom of assembly and expression. The modifications define “terrorist acts” to include, among others, “seriously disturbing public order,” “criminal association,” and “offenses linked to information and communication technologies,” all punishable with life in prison. This vague definition could be used to criminalize peaceful political activities and infringe on freedom of association and assembly. The modifications also make it a criminal offense to “incite others” to perpetrate terrorism. However, “incitement” remains undefined, which places at risk media freedoms and freedom of expression by providing a potential basis for prosecuting free speech.

On June 30, 2021, opposition party members filed an appeal to the Constitutional Council to determine whether the modifications are in line with Senegal’s constitution and domestic and international legal obligations. If the Constitutional Court declared the modifications unconstitutional, it would have been withdrawn. However, this did not occur and it was enacted, promulgated, and published in the Official Journal.

Following the implementation of the Anti-Terrorism Law in 2021, the authorities under the rule of president Macky Sall cracked down on the media and dissent and ordered security forces to arbitrarily arrest and detain journalists and other dissenting voices. They also restricted access to mobile internet and several social media platforms and banned demonstrations organized by the political opposition, which resulted in nearly 60 deadly shootings of demonstrators.

The newly elected President Faye launched on May 28, 2024 a national dialogue on the judiciary system in order to investigate all issues relating to the exercise of freedoms and rights, anti-corruption, equal treatment of citizens, humanitarian treatment of incarcerated people, accountability, and ending impunity.

Barriers to Speech / Advocacy

There is no legal limit on the ability to criticize the government. An Amnesty International report in 2017 pointed out, however, that some provisions in the new Penal Code (Law No. 2016-30), which are intended to combat terrorism, may present threats to the freedom of expression. The report notes that the Code “criminalizes the production and dissemination of ‘immoral material’ online and empowers the authorities to restrict access to ‘illicit content’ online.” The Government of Senegal has been known to react negatively to such reports from organizations like Amnesty International.

In June 2017, the National Assembly passed a new Press Code that had been debated for eight years and was met with concern from press freedom advocates because criminal defamation laws remained in place and the punishment for violations was increased. The new Press Code also authorized the Government to ban foreign news sources, shut down press outlets without the approval of a judge, and blocked access to websites with content deemed to be “contrary to morality”. Despite the passing of the Press Code, journalists and reporters have consistently been exposed to violence by security forces during crackdowns on peaceful demonstrations.

Also, in July 2018 the National Assembly passed a new modification of the Electoral Law to toughen regulation of candidacy in elections “and prevent the inflation in the number of candidates” by requiring a signature by a potential candidate of one percent of voters in order to be eligible for any election.

More recently, in August 2019, activist Guy Marius Sagna was charged with ‘false alert of terrorism’ after being arbitrarily arrested in July 2019 in Dakar. He was questioned over two Facebook posts about the lack of adequate medical facilities in Senegal 59 years after independence and about the French army presence in Africa. Social media and messaging apps were also disrupted in Senegal on March 5, 2021 for several hours. The restrictions came amid intensifying clashes between protesters and anti-riot police in Dakar after the second day of demonstrations following the arrest of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko. One day earlier, the National Audiovisual Regulatory Council (CNRA) also suspended two television stations over their coverage of the protests.

Further, in November 2021, a young Senegalese writer, Mouhamed Mbougar Sarr, was nominated laureate of the prestigious Prix Goncourt and received warm congratulations from his compatriots, including the President. Many others Senegalese, however, criticized and stigmatized his works and opined that he only received the award from the French because of his writings in promoting LGBTI rights and opposing homophobia. Three year later, the leader of the NGO Jamra called on the government to expedite the process of an anti-LGBTI law. At the same time, an activist and preacher were briefly taken in to custody for having criticized what they considered to be Prime Minister Sonko’s tolerance towards LGBTI issues.

In addition, Pape Alé Niang, an investigative journalist for the privately owned website Dakarmatin, was reportedly arrested in Dakar after police accused him of breaching professional secrecy and publishing information likely to harm national defense and public security. On November 3, 2022, Dakarmatin had published a video in which Niang reported on the contents of an internal gendarmerie report that purportedly exonerated Ousmane Sonko, an opposition leader and then-presidential candidate charged with rape.

Barriers to International Contact

There are no restrictions on associations or NGOs contacting or cooperating with any other organization in the country or abroad, as long as they respect the law. Access to the Internet is also available on the condition that users respect the law.

Certain NGOs like Amnesty International or Transparency International are suspected of being manipulated or controlled by foreign forces, which at times causes violent reactions from the state to the publication of their annual reports.  With the publication of the 2012 Report of Amnesty International, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice sent a letter to the Secretary General of Amnesty International, in which they took offense at certain comments made by the Executive Director of Amnesty’s Senegalese office

Barriers to Resources

There are no legal barriers to domestic or foreign funding.  Associations and NGOs can benefit from both domestic and foreign funding and are free to address donors directly for their fundraising. However, NGOs are subject to the verification of their funding sources by the Ministry of Finance and Plan. (Decree n° 2015-145)

Barriers to Assembly

Senegal recognizes the right to the freedom of assembly. Article 10 of the Constitution states: “Everyone has the right to express and spread freely his opinions by speech, pen, image, peaceful marching, provided that the exercise of his rights does not harm the honor or consideration of others or public order.”  The Constitution protects this freedom through Article 9, which declares that: “Any infringement on freedoms and any deliberate hindrance to the exercise of a freedom are punished by law.”

Vague Provisions

Legal obstacles to the right to demonstrate lie in a broad interpretation of the notion of disturbance to “public order.”  Generally, the administration has concrete powers via the invocation of certain ideals (social peace, harmonious functioning of economic activity, national defense, public safety, state security) to limit the freedom to demonstrate by using its police powers.  In times of crisis, however, the administrative authorities can declare a state of siege, a state of emergency, or invoke exceptional circumstances to prohibit a demonstration.

Advance Notification

Prior notification to the prefect is required 72 hours before a demonstration. The notice must state the family names, first names, and residence of the organizers and be signed by the responsible parties that reside in the prefecture of the site of the demonstration. The notice must also state the goal of the demonstration and the site, date and hour of meeting, as well as the proposed route and time the demonstration will end.

The authority (in this case the prefect) is required to respond at least 48 hours before the demonstration. If the prefect judges that the projected demonstration is of a nature to disturb public order, it issues an injunction, which is immediately communicated to the organizers. They can challenge the injunction before the administrative judge (in this case, the Supreme Court) and may request a suspension of execution of the prefect’s injunction. The Supreme Court can rule on this request for a suspension in a relatively short period (48 hours). If it is granted, it renders null the injunction against the demonstration.

Although not legally recognized, spontaneous demonstrations are tolerated in practice when connected to cultural expressions, traditional practices and customs, or particular circumstances (e.g., funerals, religious assemblies).

The law does not expressly mention counter-demonstrations.  Since any demonstration that does not disturb public order is allowed, it can be assumed that counter-demonstrations are allowed when they respect the law. In practice, counter-demonstrations have occurred during election season.

Time, Place, Manner Restrictions

There are unpublished texts (orders) that forbid, for reasons of security, demonstrations in specific places (e.g., presidential palace, courthouses, short-stay prisons, etc.) and in places considered “sensitive” that are determined by the administrative authority, sometimes without the knowledge of the people. (For example, during the presidential elections in 2012, the administrative authority decided to forbid demonstrations at Independence Square, which is located near the presidential palace.)

Some demonstrations are forbidden when authorities believe that they interfere with traffic or that they may be accompanied by violence. Such was the rationale for the prohibition of a march on May 8, 2013 of the opposition Senegalese Democratic Party and of street peddlers on November 11, 2012. Moreover, since June 2021, the “risk of trouble to public order” has been increasingly used by the authorities to ban opposition and civil society demonstrations and to justify violent crackdowns, which have resulted in more than 50 deaths and the arrests of up to 1,500 political prisoners.

UN Universal Periodic Review Reports Senegal (May 11, 2018)
Reports of UN Special Rapporteurs Missions to Senegal
USIG (United States International Grantmaking) Country Notes None
U.S. State Department Senegal Human Rights Report (2023)
Fragile States Index Reports Senegal: Failed States Index
IMF Country Reports Senegal and the IMF
Government of Senegal
International Center for Not-for-Profit Law Online Library Senegal

While we aim to maintain information that is as current as possible, we realize that situations can rapidly change.  If you are aware of any additional information or inaccuracies on this page, please keep us informed; write to ICNL at

General News

Senegal’s youngest-ever president appoints ‘breakaway’ government (June 2024)
Senegal’s President Bassirou Diomaye Faye named a new government, appointing a host of fresh faces to top roles following his landslide election win. According to Prime Minister Ousmane Sonko, Faye’s former mentor, the government “embodies … a systemic transformation voted for by the Senegalese people”.

Two held in Senegal after criticising PM on gay rights (May 2024)
An activist and a preacher were taken into police custody in Dakar after filming videos criticizing Senegal’s prime minister for perceived tolerance towards gay people. A source close to the case said that the two men are being investigated for “spreading false news” and “offending” the head of government.

Civil society and opposition step up protests to break political deadlock (February 2024)
Several hundred people demonstrated in Dakar calling on President Macky Sall to set a date to elect his successor before his term ends on April 2. Meanwhile, researchers, teachers, economists and analysts have been gathering to try and break the political stalemate. Sall has invited political parties and civil society to take part in talks.

Senegal is a new risk for democracy in Africa (February 2024)
The sudden actions by Senegal’s president to postpone this month’s presidential election by 10 months threaten to seriously undermine political stability and peace in a nation that has been a resilient democracy in West Africa, where multiple military coups d’état have occurred in recent years. This move poses risks of authoritarianism, violence and economic setbacks for Senegal’s 17 million people, and deeper regional insecurity. Friends of Senegal and democracy, in the United States, Africa and beyond, must unite behind the clear desire of Senegal’s people to maintain peaceful, freely elected democracy under its constitution.

Electoral commission calls to reinstate voting rights for opposition leader Sonko (November 2023)
Senegal’s electoral commission asked that sponsorship forms be given to main opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, whose candidacy for the upcoming presidential election has been called into question over the past year amid a series of criminal charges. The move comes as Sonko remains hospitalized because of a hunger strike he began earlier this month and as he awaits a decision from a West African regional court.

Senegal deploys army as Dakar braces for more unrest (June 2023)
Army troops were deployed to parts of the Senegalese capital Dakar as the city braced for more unrest after a jail sentence for opposition leader Ousmane Sonko sparked one of the deadliest days of violence in the country’s recent memory. Nine people were killed in clashes between riot police and Sonko supporters after he was sentenced to two years for corrupting youth. The opposition says the verdict, which could prevent Sonko from running in elections next year, was politically motivated.

Senegal’s Sonko claims he is being ‘illegally held’ as ‘national dialogue’ opens (May 2023)
Senegal opposition leader Ousmane Sonko broke his silence after his recent arrest, and said that he felt he had been “kidnapped” by the security forces. He also called on his compatriots to protest against the current government by using social media. Sonko was arrested while leading supporters from his native Zighinchor, in Casamance, towards the Senegalese capital, Dakar.

President of Senegal launches national dialogue amid rising tensions (May 2023)
The president of Senegal, Macky Sall, launched his national dialogue initiative nine months ahead of presidential elections in February next year. In his address, Macky Sall pledged to be firm in the face of growing tensions. The presidential initiative takes place against a background of popular unrest in the run-up to a court verdict against political opponent Ousmane Sonko.

Senegalese CSOs file complaint after billions lost to misuse of Covid funds (February 2023)
A group of Senegalese CSOs and citizens filed a complaint with a Dakar court to ask it to take up a COVID-19 mismanagement case. The move follows the publication of a report by the Court of Auditors, which detailed the management of the COVID-19 response funds in 2020-2021.

Fight breaks out after female MP hit in Senegal parliament (December 2022)
Lawmakers in Senegal’s parliament exchanged blows and a hurled chair while one slapped a female MP in the face as issues became heated in the assembly. The scuffles occurred amid growing acrimony between ruling and opposition party politicians.

Senegal journalist back in jail in high-profile case (December 2022)
Senegalese authorities re-arrested journalist Pape Alé Niang less than a week after his release on bail. Niang, the director of the privately owned website Dakarmatin, was arrested in early November, criminally charged over a video report, and released on bail with various conditions on December 14.

Senegalese journalist detained after reporting on politician’s rape charges (November 2022)
Pape Alé Niang, an investigative journalist for the privately owned website Dakarmatin, was reportedly arrested in the capital Dakar after police accused him of breaching professional secrecy and publishing information likely to harm national defense and public security. On November 3, Dakarmatin published a video in which Niang reported on the contents of an internal gendarmerie report that purportedly exonerated Ousmane Sonko, an opposition leader and 2024 presidential candidate charged with rape. The Committee to Protect Journalists is calling for his release.

Senegal opposition leader asks supporters to defend their votes (August 2022)
A Senegalese opposition leader on Wednesday called on supporters to be ready to defend their votes by any means, accusing the ruling party of President Macky Sall of wanting to steal a legislative election the opposition claims to have won. “Macky Sall wants to confiscate our victory but we will not accept it,” opposition leader Ousmane Sonko of the coalition Yewwi Askane Wi (YAW) said at a news conference.

Opposition claims victory in legislative elections (August 2022)
The presidential camp and the opposition each stood firm in claiming to have won Sunday’s parliamentary elections in Senegal, as the vote count continued. These legislative elections, the last before the presidential election of 2024, are a test after the local elections of January, which were won by the opposition in major cities of this country known for its stability, such as Dakar, Ziguinchor (south) and Thies (west).

Voters flock to the polls in Senegal’s local elections (January 2022)
Voters in Senegal went to the polls to elect local representatives in what many see as a test for President Macky Sall and the opposition. It’s the first election in the country since last year’s deadly riots after opposition leader, Ousmane Sonko, was arrested. The poll takes place five months ahead of a general election.

Senegal opposition leader arrested again (November 2021)
Senegalese police arrested an opposition leader for a second time a week after he was detained following clashes between his supporters and police. The opposition leader, Barthelemy Dias, a mayoral candidate for Senegal’s capital Dakar, was arrested by police as he left home to “distribute flyers” with a small group of supporters. Dias heads a coalition of opposition parties for the city’s mayoralty in local elections scheduled for January 2022.

Elections in Senegal: several opposition lists rejected, candidates cry “sabotage” (July 2021) (French)
In Senegal, there is controversy a few days after the filing of the lists for the local elections of January 23, 2022. Several opposition coalitions denounced the rejection by the prefectures of their lists in different localities of the country.

Clashes at Dakar against anti-terrorism law (June 2021)
Demonstrators clashed with police in Dakar as they protested against a draft anti-terrorism law and a reform to the penal code proposed by the government. Security forces were deployed outside the National Assembly, where the law was being debated, and at various points in the city. Lawmakers have been debating the anti-terrorist legislative framework and reform of the penal code, with supporters arguing it is necessary to effectively fight extremism affecting some parts of West Africa.

Senegal President Sall calls for day of mourning after unrest (March 2021)
Senegalese President Macky Sall has declared a day of national mourning in memory of those killed in recent unrest sparked by the arrest of an opposition politician accused of rape. Sall also announced lifting of COVID-19 restrictions that had angered people.

Social media and messaging apps disrupted in Senegal (March 2021)
Network data from the NetBlocks Internet Observatory confirm the disruption of social media and messaging apps in Senegal as of Friday March 5, 2021. Affected services were subsequently restored. The online service restrictions came amid intensifying clashes between protesters and anti-riot police in Dakar after the second day of demonstrations following the arrest of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko.

Renewed calls for protest in Senegal after days of clashes (March 2021)
At a news conference in Dakar, the Movement for the Defence of Democracy, which includes the leading opposition party Pastef, urged Senegalese people to “massively descend on the streets”. The call came after days of clashes between opposition supporters and police, which began after Pastef leader Ousmane Sonko was arrested.

Senegal police intercept more than 1,500 migrants (December 2020)
Senegalese authorities intercepted more than 1,500 migrants trying to reach Europe via the Mediterranean Sea, local media reported. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said in late October that “there have been roughly 11,000 arrivals to the Canary Islands this year compared to 2,557 arrivals during the same period last year. This is still far below peaks seen in 2006 when over 32,000 people arrived.”

Canadian PM Trudeau Raises Gay Rights with Senegal Leader (February 2020)
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau raised Senegal’s criminalization of homosexuality during his visit to the West African nation on Wednesday, but Senegal’s leader told journalists afterward that “we’re comfortable with our laws.” The exchange between Trudeau and Senegalese President Macky Sall highlighted the impasse the United States, Canada and other Western nations have had in persuading Senegal and most African countries not to jail gays and lesbians.

Activist Arbitrarily Detained for Facebook Posts (August 2019)
Senegalese activist Guy Marius Sagna was charged with ‘false alert of terrorism’ on Augus 5, 2019. He was arbitrarily arrested on July 16 in Dakar. He was first questioned over his two Facebook posts about the lack of adequate medical facilities in Senegal.

Senegal’s Macky Sall signs decree scrapping post of Prime Minister (May 2019)
“The President of the Republic today promulgated the constitutional law abolishing the post of Prime Minister”, adopted on May 4 by a very large majority of deputies, says a government statement. The scrapping of the prime minister’s post was initiated by the president at the start of his second term mandate in April which has proven very divisive.

EU welcomes the good organization of the presidential election in Senegal (February 2019) (French)
During a press conference two days after the election, the EU mission for the observation of the presidential election in Senegal welcomed a calm and transparent election with a large participation of voters.

Civil society protests against withdrawal of Lead Africa Francophone accreditation (November 2018)
The Senegalese authorities have withdrawn the approval of Lead Africa Francophone. The state condemns mainly the leading French-speaking NGO for participating in irregular financing operations of an association that does not benefit from the recognition of public services. But civil society, in its entirety, feels that this is no more than a barrier to the freedom of civilians and human rights organizations.

Opposition to march for electoral process transparency (November 2018)
The National Resistance Front (FNR), formed by opposition political parties in Senegal, held a first march on November 29 in front of the Ministry of the Interior in Dakar and plans to repeat it again in December 6, to demand transparency concerning the electoral register and a neutral person or body to organize the February 24, 2019 presidential election.

Protests in Senegal against proposed electoral law changes (April 2018)
Protesters in Senegal are angry about potential changes to electoral rules, fearing it will block many candidates from running in next year’s presidential election. The opposition says the proposals are a blow to democracy. But the government insists the reforms are needed to simplify the election process and reduce state costs and subsidies allocated for campaigns.

Civil Society Instructs Macky (January 2018) (in French)
NGO members of the Network of Civil Society Actors for Transparent Elections (PACTE) and the Coalition for Civil Society Organizations for Elections in Senegal (COSCE) publicly called for President Macky Sall to take all measures to ensure that all stakeholders agree on the electoral rules and bodies for administering the presidential elections in February 2019. This call took place in context of a lack of confidence between the ruling coalition and the opposition parties after shortcomings were observed in the implementation of the July 2017 legislative elections.

“It takes more to tango” – cross-movement alliances of youth-led movements in West Africa (August 2017)
In 2011, Keur Gui (a well-known hip-hop group in Senegal), Fadel Barro (a journalist) and other rappers from the suburbs in Dakar raised their voices in Senegal to claim that they were “fed up” with the bad governance of the president and hence were launching the movement Y’en a marre (“We are fed up”). With very limited financial means and little experience in the political sphere, these leaders successfully mobilized the youth – a generation that usually positions itself far away from politics. At first, Y’en a marre independently called for protests to denounce bad governance practices. But when in June the Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade announced changes to the constitution in his favor, many different groups ranging from university students, human rights organizations, and opposition party leaders took to the streets. This led to a massive protest on 23 June 2011 and the formation of a rather loose alliance named Mouvement du 23 Juin (M23) in the aftermath of which Y’en a marre participated.

Consensus on the draft press code (September 2016)
A consensus on the draft press code emerged in Saly-Portudal (Mbour) by all actors (administrative authorities, deputies and journalists). The consensus came at the end of an exchange workshop on this document, which aims to make journalistic activity “more credible”. There were “intense consultations to arrive at a draft code for which President Macky Sall attaches particular attention,” said Minister of Culture and Communication, Mbagnick Ndiaye.

Senegal consolidating its democracy (April 2016)
Both the length of presidential mandates and the limits to them have been the source of not inconsiderable controversy in Senegalese politics. President Macky Sall was elected in 2012 in part because of his predecessor’s attempt to manipulate the systemOne of Sall’s campaign pledges was, in fact, to reduce the presidential term back to five years, beginning with his own.

YEAM youth movement is pro-democracy and anti-violence (April 2015)
Y’en a Marre (we’ve had enough) movement, or YEAM, which is fundamentally opposed to violence, emerged out of hip-hop; it came to prominence during the 2012 presidential election, when it encouraged the young to “make their voices heard” by voting. YEAM called for a “new Senegalese model” which could provide a base for a “citizens’ republic”. YEAM had been set up on 15 January 2011, the day after Tunisia’s president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was overthrown. “[It was] a sign that anything was possible,” said Fadel Barro, 36, a YEAM founder.

President Obama cites Senegalese civil society in UN speech (October 2014)
Speaking before world leaders gathered in New York for the U.N. General Assembly, President Barack Obama called for a unified effort to quell growing instability in the world. Among other messages, he said, “positive change need not come at the expense of tradition and faith. We see it in Senegal, where civil society thrives alongside a strong, democratic government. We see it in Malaysia, where vibrant entrepreneurship is propelling a former colony into the ranks of advanced economies. And we see it in Indonesia, where what began as a violent transition has evolved into a genuine democracy.”

Nigeria, Senegal Partner On Women for Democratic Leadership (August 2013)
Nigeria and Senegal are planning to provide women at the grassroots level with leadership and advocacy skills that would enable them contribute meaningfully to the development of their countries. Also, they will learn about participating effectively in the political and socio-economic development of their communities and the nation.