An Important Step Forward for Democracy in Africa

Posted by Lewis Lukens
March 26, 2012
Woman Votes at Polling Station in Senegal on March 25, 2012

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.

Related Content: Statements by President Obama and Secretary Clinton

Comments

Comments

RANDRIAMIARINTSOA T.
|
Madagascar
March 27, 2012

Tsimba R. in Madagascar writes:

I'm very impressed of the democracy evolution in Senegal. I congratulate Senegalese. I hope one day, my country will attain this important step.

Amadou
|
Senegal
March 27, 2012

Amadou in Senegal writes:

Thanks Ambassador Lukens !

I am very proud of we, Senegalese people. We showed again to the world that we believe in Democracy values. We should also congratulate Senegalese political and civil society leaders as well as our parterns like USA that played an important role in this process. Yes, Africa can make a peaceful political change.

Theresa
|
District Of Columbia, USA
April 19, 2012

Theresa in Washington, D.C. writes:

I am so thrilled that the Senegalese people peacefully voted a new president into office. I spent June-August 2011 living in Dakar and saw first-hand the turmoil the country was in. In fact, I arrived in Senegal the morning of June 23 or Movement 23 as the Senegalese now refer to it.

I lived at a university in Dakar and spoke with many Senegalese university students who were extremely frustrated with the government. So much so that students who were studying international relations and political science for graduate degrees told me that they would join the protests and throw rocks at the police if Wade was reelected. Not only was the former President Wade running for an illegal third term (he himself established the two term limit), but he was trying to appoint his son to the position of Vice President without having the Senegalese people vote him in. Additional grievances included the fact that the Senegalese government would shut off all power in Dakar during the day in order to save money and that Wade commissioned the building of a monument (Le Monument de la Renaissance) that cost billions of dollars instead of feeding the starving people of his country. Across Senegal, people were angry that President Wade was giving Senegal, a country that prides itself on being one of the most stable democracies in Africa, a bad reputation.

Since returning home, I have been following the election process in Senegal. I was extremely nervous for Senegal as I was hearing about more instances of violence and protests happening around the country. I kept imaging my Senegalese friends in the midst of the protests. It was frustrating for me to hear Americans talk about Senegal as “just another African country that is rioting” when Senegal has worked hard over the past 50 years to establish itself as a democratic, stable, and peaceful country. Last month, after the voting took place and was declared too close to announce a winner, I sat at home biting my nails. If Wade was reelected, Senegal would certainly take two steps backwards.

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