CIVIC SPACE UNDER THREAT!
Statement on the Current Political and Security Developments in Senegal
Tuesday, 06 June 2023
We, the underlisted civil society organisations in West Africa, note with deep concern recent political and security developments in Senegal, following the verdict against leader of the opposition Patriots of Senegal for Work, Ethics, and Fraternity (PASTEF) party, Ousmane Sonko, who was sentenced to two years in prison for “corrupting youth” on 01 June 2023. The scenes of ongoing violent clashes between protesters and security forces as well as and the several regrettable civilian casualties that we have witnessed over the past few days are not only troubling but also highlight the risks that the ongoing political crisis portends for Senegal’s democracy and for peace and stability in the entire West African sub-region.
We are alarmed by the increasing repeated crackdowns on dissidents and protesters by law enforcement officers in Senegal, as the country inches closer to its presidential elections scheduled for February 2024. We note in particular that the heavy handed responses by law enforcement, including the disproportionate use of force; digital restrictions by the state, among others constitute flagrant violation of fundamental human rights and are inconsistent with democratic commitments enshrined in the Senegalese constitution and other international norms and frameworks that Senegal subscribes to, including, the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and Human Rights Council resolutions 22/6, 27/5 and 27/31, and the African Charter On Human And Peoples’ Rights. We are further concerned that the ongoing political crisis is likely to result in the reversal of the democratic gains chalked by Senegal over the years.
We note also that the successive criminal prosecutions of Mr. Sonko over the past few months, have not only tested the resilience of Senegal’s long-standing democracy, but also threatens to jeopardise the strategic role it plays in the maintenance of democratic stability in West Africa. We note in particular that the current political crisis has been fueled by perceptions of harassment and persecution of political opponents, as well as concerns that the President Macky Sall may be considering running for a third presidential term after his constitutional mandated term ends in 2024. Unfortunately, while the Senegal’s constitution has enshrined a maximum two-term presidential limit, President Sall’s has so far failed to denounce rumours that he is considering running for a third term.
Despite this, we are encouraged by calls for national dialogue from the various political actors including the President Macky Sall and several opposition parties. We believe that a constructive national dialogue with all the stakeholders – ruling government, political parties, civil society, etc. will be a first step to returning normalcy to the Senegal and ensuring respect for the rule of law and fundamental freedoms.
We stand in solidarity with the people of Senegal and all who are fighting for respect of rights and freedoms, respect for rule of law, as well as a better and democratic Senegal. Our thoughts and condolences go out to the victims, their families and the people of Senegal during this crisis. We reiterate our confidence that a peaceful and democratic response to the crisis provides the best avenue to resolve the crisis and to protect lives and individual liberties.
We therefore call for immediate actions by the following:
1. The President Macky Sall Administration should:
i. Respect citizens’ constitutionally guaranteed rights to freedoms of expression and assembly.
ii. Put in place the appropriate safeguards and processes to ensure the respect for human rights and the rule of law, protection of journalists and civil society, as well as control the excesses by security forces as they attempt to restore calm.
iii. Create safe and inclusive spaces for dialogue as a pathway to restoring Senegal to its previous position as the bastion of stable democracy in West Africa.
iv. Immediately restore citizens’ digital rights by lifting the restriction on access to the internet and social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram, YouTube, Telegram, among others.
v. Reiterate the Administration’s commitment to abide by relevant international commitments of Senegal including the Lomé Declaration of July 2000 on the framework for an OAU response to unconstitutional changes of government (AHG/Decl.5 (XXXVI); the 2002 OAU/AU Declaration on Principles Governing Democratic Elections in Africa; and the 2007 African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, which prohibit all actions, including any amendment or revision of the constitution or legal instruments, that constitute “an infringement on the principles of democratic change of government.”
vi. Demonstrate democratic leadership and statesmanship by confirming the President’s respect for the constitutionally mandated two-term presidential limit and clear suspicions of a third term agenda.
vii. Respect the right to liberty and freedom of movement of Ousmane Sonko by immediately lifting the restrictions placed on him and allowing him to participate freely in the political process.
viii. The Government of Senegal should Conduct a thorough and independent investigation into the allegations of human rights violations during the protests, hold those responsible accountable, and provide reparations to the victims and their families.
2. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), African Union (AU), United Nations (UN), and the international community should:
i. Proactively engage the Senegalese government and people – including civil society – at this challenging time for a lasting solution to the political and security crisis.
ii. Fast-track the finalisation of the revised Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance and particularly proscribe third-termism for Member States.
iii. Act swiftly to condemn the deteriorating political and security developments in Senegal, and more importantly impress on President Macky Sall to reaffirm his commitment to the constitutionally mandated two-term limit.
3. We call on all political parties and civil society groups in Senegal (and across the region) to support inclusive dialogue and redouble their commitment to the ideals of democracy and constitutionalism as they stand in solidarity with the Senegalese people for an orderly, peaceful, and democratic state.
• Abiodun Essiet Initiative for Girls, Nigeria
• Aspilos Foundation, Nigeria
• Africa Media Development Foundation (AMDF)
• Alliances for Africa
• Africa Center for Information and Development (ACID), Norway
• Bailo Citoyen, Burkina Faso
• BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights (BAOBAB) Nigeria
• Campaign for Good Governance (CGG) Sierra Leone
• Cedar Seed Foundation, Nigeria
• Center for Research and Policy Development, Nigeria
• Centre for Democracy and Good Governance (CDD) Ghana
• Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Nigeria
• CLEEN Foundation, Nigeria
• Community Focus Foundation, Ghana
• Democracy Hub, Ghana
• Democratic Accountability Lab, Ghana
• Fix The Country, Ghana.
• Foundation for Security and Development in Africa (FOSDA)
• Gender Mobile, Nigeria
• Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition (GACC)
• Human Rights Reporters Ghana-NGO (HRRG)
• Initiative for Research, Innovation and Advocacy in Development, Nigeria
• INCRESE Nigeria
• Institute for Governance Reform (IGR) Sierra Leone
• Kebekatche Women Development & Resource Centre, Nigeria
• Media Advocacy West Africa Foundation (MAWA – Foundation)
• Moremi Initiative, Nigeria
• Nyang-Sanneh Institute for Social Research and Justice (NSI)
• Naymote Partners for Democratic Development (NAYMOTE), Liberia
• Network of Women with Disabilities, Nigeria
• Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN)
• Patients Friend Foundation – PFF Ghana
• Renel Ghana Foundation
• Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre- RULAAC; Lagos, Nigeria
• Sahel Activistes Senegal
• Social Watch Benin
• Strategic Thinkers Network – Africa
• The Electoral Hub, Nigeria
• Nigeria Network of NGOs (NNNGO)
• The Network of Non-Governmental Organisations (TANGO), the Gambia
• Transition Monitoring Group, (TMG) Nigeria
• West Africa Civic Space Resource Hub (CSR-Hub)
• West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI)
• West Africa Democracy Solidarity Network (WADEMOS)
• West Africa Drug Policy Network (WADPN)
• West African Youth for Peace Network
• Women Advocates’ Research and Documentation Center (WARDC)
• Women in Law & Development in Africa (WILDAF)