In recent years, Senegal’s long-standing stability has been shaken by the protracted 40-year insurgency in its Casamance region, as well as by a growing power struggle between the national government and the political opposition, resulting in deadly clashes in 2021. Since 2016, USIP has worked with communities, security forces and government representatives to increase participation in security processes through dialogues and collaborative mechanisms.
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.
Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen’s recent 10-day trip to Africa kicks off a year of sustained, high-level U.S. engagement, aimed at demonstrating that the Biden administration is “all in on Africa, and all in with Africa” following December’s U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. With trips from the president, vice president, and other cabinet secretaries in the works, this “super-charged” U.S. diplomacy is moving beyond the typical secretary of state visits. A close look at some of the issues encountered by Yellen on her trip demonstrates that showing up on the continent may be the easy part of going all in with Africa.
Senegal, one of West Africa’s most stable countries, is a key partner in countering extremism, military coups and other violence in the Sahel and in coastal states. Yet Senegal’s democracy and stability face challenges, notably the 40-year insurgency in the Casamance region. As Senegal attempts political and security reforms to build peace there, a community dialogue process in one Casamance town is helping improve security. Local dialogues—among communities, government officials and security forces—offer an efficient method for Senegal and its partners to heal conflict, bolster Senegal’s stability and counter West Africa’s slippage toward violence.
USIP’s Women Preventing Violent Extremism (WPVE) program aims to shape national policies and community approaches to countering violent extremism in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel. USIP does this by empowering women-led organizations and building local capacity that fosters collaboration between community-level activists and national-level policymakers.
In countries of Africa, the Middle East and Asia, USIP has pioneered a method to bring state officials, community leaders and citizens together to work out the roots of their problems and cooperatively rebuild security.