Spot Report: Senegal’s Military Hosts Parade Amid Rising Political Tensions by Emily Levinson

On April 4, Senegal celebrated its 63rd year of independence against a backdrop of rising political tensions. Widely considered one of West Africa’s most stable democracies, Senegal has faced growing unrest over fears that President Macky Sall may try to run for a third term in 2024, a concern he has refused to address.

Senegal’s constitution limits presidents to two terms in office, but some fear that Sall will use a recent constitutional change as a pretext to reset his mandate, a tactic used by multiple other presidents in the region in recent elections. This has led to increasing protests and demonstrations, particularly after a libel case against opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, who is widely popular among Senegal’s youth, escalated in February and March.

The most recent wave of protests, which began on March 14, were met with brutal repression by Senegal’s police forces. The authorities have also banned protests, suspended media, and cracked down on human rights over the past few months, further exacerbating the opposition’s objections to Sall’s repressive governance.

Amid these tensions, opposition leaders announced on March 31 that the newest round of protests, scheduled to begin on April 3, would be postponed after consultations with senior members of the Defense and Security Forces. This move came as Senegal prepared to hold its first military parade in four years in honor of its independence anniversary.

Meanwhile, President Sall has publicly proclaimed that he is “open to dialogue.” However, with national elections scheduled in less than a year and Sall remaining coy about his plans, the path forward for Senegal remains unclear. It is a situation that has left many in the country uneasy, and the possibility of further unrest cannot be ruled out.