small, semi-arid nation on West Africa’s Atlantic coast, has long been viewed
as one of the region’s most stable democracies. However, recent political
trends have raised concerns among analysts and policymakers. Attention is
currently focused on plans by President Abdoulaye Wade (pronounced “wahd”),
85, to run for a third term in elections scheduled for February 26, 2012.
Opponents claim that Wade’s candidacy is unconstitutional, pointing to a
twoterm limit in Senegal’s 2001 constitution. However, Wade’s eligibility
to run was upheld in late January by Senegal’s Constitutional Council,
which ruled that the constitutional provision did not apply to Wade’s
first term in office (2000-2007), since the 2001 constitution was promulgated during
his first term. The dispute has sparked demonstrations and rioting, leading
analysts to question Senegal’s stability and the potential for a free and
In office since 2000, Wade was initially credited with expanding civil
liberties, bolstering economic growth, improving government health and
education services, and negotiating a landmark peace accord in the
long-volatile southern Casamance region. He was returned to office in 2007
in an election that the State Department termed “open, peaceful, and highly
competitive,” despite objections by opposition parties, which boycotted
subsequent legislative elections. Wade’s reputation has since been marred
by his increasingly unilateral exercise of power, along with reports of
rising corruption, nepotism, and restrictions on civil liberties. Violence has
also flared in Casamance since 2009, despite the previous peace deal.
The State Department refers to U.S.-Senegalese relations as “excellent,” while
noting concerns over negative governance trends. In early 2012, State
Department officials publicly criticized Wade’s decision to run for a
third term, with State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland calling on
Wade on January 30 to “cede to the next generation.” Wade has publicly objected
to what he views as outside attempts to interfere in domestic politics.
U.S. bilateral engagement has increased in recent years. Bilateral assistance,
estimated at $98.8 million in FY2011, is focused on public health, food
security, democratic governance, economic growth, rural development, and
military professionalism. In addition, the United States signed a $540
million Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) compact with Senegal in 2009.
The United States has viewed Senegal as an anchor of regional stability
and a potential partner in combating transnational security threats, such
as terrorism, narcotics trafficking, and maritime piracy. Senegal is a
significant contributor of troops to international peacekeeping missions, and thousands
of Senegalese peacekeepers have received U.S. training through the State
Department’s Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA)
Congress plays a role in guiding U.S. policy toward Senegal through its
authorization, appropriation, and oversight of foreign assistance and
executive branch policies. Some Members of Congress have recently
expressed concern regarding the decision to award Senegal an MCC compact
in light of concerns over corruption and political trends. In the conference
report accompanying P.L. 112-74, the Consolidated Appropriations Act,
2012, appropriators directed the allocation of at least $50 million in
development aid to Senegal, while also expressing concern over Senegal’s
failure, to date, to bring to justice former Chadian president Hissène Habré,
who lives in Senegal and has been accused of crimes against humanity.
Date of Report: February 20, 2012
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