When I arrived in Senegal last August, I knew that it would be an exciting year for this nation's democracy, but I don't think anybody could have predicted the path that Senegalese took to get to where they are today. Much of the population rose up in protest to attempted changes to the constitution last year on June 23 (a date now immortalized by a civil society movement called Movement 23, or M23).
Since last June, Senegal's democracy has seemed more fragile than ever before during its 52-year history. Yet today, Senegal has a new President-elect, Macky Sall, after current President Abdoulaye Wade graciously conceded defeat last night. Senegal's strong tradition of democracy and vibrant civil society shone through again.
On February 26, I had the honor and privilege of accompanying Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Johnnie Carson, as he led a delegation of American observers during the first round of Senegal's presidential election.
As was the case on February 26, it was a true pleasure to watch the Senegalese people peacefully exercise their democratic rights once again on March 25 for the ultimate round. I visited dozens of polling stations, and every one of them was calm, orderly, and well organized. Our observers across the country all reported the same -- Senegalese people proudly and peacefully lining up to vote. Other international and domestic observers have also praised the conduct of this second round.
Yesterday's election confirms Senegal's status as one of Africa's leading democracies. The Senegalese people are rightfully proud of the election results. All Senegalese, and the government institutions that made the election possible, deserve congratulations and praise.