Senegal has remained relatively stable but poor since it gained independence from France in 1960. It is an electoral democracy and one of the few countries in West Africa never to have experienced a military coup d’état. A low-level conflict in the southern region of Casamance has impeded development, but violence in that area has decreased in recent years. Senegal’s leaders are influential in Francophone African diplomatic circles, and its military is active in global peacekeeping. The population is mostly Muslim. While ethnic and sectarian divisions exist, they play less of a role in politics than in many other West African countries. Donor assistance, reforms, and new infrastructure have facilitated economic growth in recent years, but poverty remains widespread. Wealth creation has also been uneven and concentrated in the capital, Dakar. Food insecurity is a persistent problem, and nutrition shortfalls contribute to high child and maternal mortality rates. President Macky Sall was elected in 2012, defeating incumbent Abdoulaye Wade, who had been president since 2000. In the lead-up to the vote, Wade’s controversial attempt to run for what would have been a third term provoked protests and rioting. Sall’s electoral victory and Wade’s peaceful concession quelled concerns regarding Senegal’s political stability. Political tensions have since risen again in connection with the prosecution of Wade’s son, Karim, for alleged large-scale corruption during Wade’s presidency (see below).
Date of Report: April 1, 2015
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