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Senegal’s Democracy: How Did We Get Here and What Shall We Expect?

April 10, 2024 • 10:30 – 11:30 am EDT

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In Senegal, Bassirou Diomaye Faye has emerged as Africa’s youngest democratically elected leader. At only 44- years old Faye’s election was nothing short of a rollercoaster having been released from prison only 10 days before the polls opened. Furthermore, Faye is a newcomer to the political scene and was not even his political party’s, African Patriots of Senegal for Work, Ethics and Fraternity (PASTEF), first choice to run for President. That distinction had been reserved for Faye’s mentor, Ousman Sonko, who was barred for running himself but who anointed Faye his designee. Faye’s campaign slogan was "Diomaye mooy Ousmane", which means "Diomaye is Ousmane" in Wolof. 

When former President Macky Sall postponed presidential elections in an unconstitutional bid to sustain his party’s hold on the presidency, protests erupted across Senegal. Many observers feared that Senegal’s track record as the only coup-free West African nation would be erased. However, the Senegalese people, in particular youth, journalists, civil society groups, and political opposition leaders, pushed for the election to happen. Many observers now credit these groups with saving and preserving Senegal’s democratic tradition. The atmosphere in Senegal on March 24, 2024, when early results indicated Faye’s victory, was immediately jubilant.  

Amidst the celebrations, however, in the wake of this tumultuous election, several questions linger: How did the Senegalese people thwart former President Macky Sall’s unconstitutional ambitions?  What do the Senegalese expect of President Faye? How would his foreign policy impact the Economic Organization of West African States? What influence will Ousmane Sonko have on his former protégé and on policymaking? 

The CSIS Africa Program will host a panel discussion with Gilles Yabi, Hawa Ba, and Gregory Kearns to unpack what this election means for Senegal and the region.

This event is made possible through the generous support of Open Society Foundations

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Hawa Ba

Hawa Ba

Division Director, Open Society-Africa