Following the March 4, 2021 deadly riots in Dakar, President Macky Sall declared a day of mourning in memory of those deceased. Sall also decided to end COVID-19 restrictions, including the curfews in Dakar and Thiès that had angered people, and to increase government efforts for improve youth employment. However, on June 25, 2021, in context of intense competition before local elections scheduled for January 2022, legislative elections scheduled for mid-2022, and presidential elections scheduled for 2024, the National Assembly voted for 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 and NGOs following the riots in March 2021 rejected the law and organized protests against the law in Dakar. Similarly, human rights and labor organizations expressed their concern that the law would restrict freedom of assembly and expression. Please see the Introduction below for more information on political tensions in Senegal heading into 2022.
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 in 2013. Senegal is one of the world’s leading producers of phosphate rock and a producer of gold and industrial limestone and plans for also gas and oil production, following significant discoveries offshore in recent years.
Senegalese civil society is regulated by a generally favorable legal framework. Organizations carry 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.
Following the 2019 election, Macky Sall was declared president by the Constitutional Council for his second and last term, which will last five years as stated in the Constitution. One of his first moves in May 2019 was to promulgate a law abolishing the post of prime minister. Critics suggest this was a ploy to wield more powers. Upon Macky Sall’s invitation, the ruling coalition, the opposition and prominent NGOs conducted an “inclusive” national dialogue to bolster Senegal’s democracy and strengthen cooperation on issues of national interest, along with a political dialogue aiming to enhance trust in the rights and freedoms of the opposition parties, the administration of elections, the electoral process, and the election of city mayors. Both dialogue processes have, however, been boycotted by some opposition parties.
Senegal has faced a critical political crisis since the arrest of the most popular opponent of President Macky Sall, Ousmane Sonko, on March 4, 2021 while Sonko was on his way to court to answer a rape charge. The arrest provoked violent clashes in Dakar and other towns and resulted in at least four dead and many injuries. NGOs and opposition political parties established the Movement for the Defence of Democracy (M2D), which urged Senegalese people to “massively descend on the streets” for three days from March 8 to pressure the government to stop violence against protesters and free Sonko and all “political prisoners” and to advocate for peace and justice.
After Macky Sall’s reelection in 2019, political parties had also agreed to elect mayors and the presidents of Department Councils by direct vote instead of an indirect vote. These decisions were approved by Sall and voted by the National Assembly to be implemented during the coming local elections in January 2022. However, on November 3, 2021, when the submission of candidate lists prior to the local elections had closed, a large number of the opposition lists were rejected. This has contributed to an increase in political tensions heading into 2022.
Associations, Foundations, and NGOs
|Ministry of Interior (Associations); Ministry of Finance (Foundations): Line Ministry (national NGOs); Ministry of Foreign Affairs (international NGOs.)|
|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||15,736,368 (July 2020 est.)|
|Type of Government||Presidential Republic|
|Life Expectancy at Birth||Total population: 66.9 years |
Male: 65.8 years, Female: 68.1 years (2018 est.)
|Literacy Rate||Total population: 57.7% (Male: 69.7%, Female: 46.6%) (2015 est.)|
|Religious Groups||Muslim 95.4% (most adhere to one of four main Sufi brotherhoods), Christian 4.2% (mostly Roman Catholic), animist 0.4% (2015 est.)|
|Ethnic Groups||Wolof 38.7%, Pular 26.5%, Serer 15%, Mandinka 4.2%, Jola 4%, Soninke 2.3%, other 9.3% (includes Europeans and persons of Lebanese descent) (2015 est.)|
|GDP per capita||$3,500 (2017 est.)|
Source: The World Factbook. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency.
|Ranking Body||Rank||Ranking Scale |
(best – worst possible)
|UN Human Development Index||166 (2020)||1 – 187|
|World Justice Project Rule of Law Index||57 (2021)||1 – 139|
|Foreign Policy: Fragile States Index||71 (2020)||178 – 1|
|Transparency International||66 (2020)||1 – 180|
|Freedom House: Freedom in the World||Status: Partly Free |
Political Rights: 29
Civil Liberties: 42
|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|
|African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR)||Yes||1982|
|African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child||Yes||1992|
* Category includes ratification, accession, or succession to the treaty
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. 2015-145, of 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 email@example.com
The following legal forms exist:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Barriers to Speech / Advocacy
There is no legal limit on the ability to criticize the government. An Amnesty International report in 2017 points 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”. 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 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.
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.”
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.
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.
|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 (2020)|
|Fragile States Index Reports||Senegal: Failed States Index|
|IMF Country Reports||Senegal and the IMF|
|Government of Senegal||sec.gouv.sn|
|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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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.
The foregoing information was collected by the ICNL Civic Freedom Monitor partner organization in Senegal.