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Ringing in the New Year with Elections in Senegal

After several postponements since the 2019 presidential election, Senegal will hold local elections on 23 January to determine mayorships in all 550 municipalities and provincial councils. Related protests and associated unrest have been reported across the country since October 2021. This follows nationwide protests in March 2021 that were triggered by the arrest of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko and during which 13 people were killed. Heightened political tensions will persist during and after the electoral cycle, as the results will be indicative of things to come, with legislative elections scheduled in June 2022 and the presidential election in 2024. 

Sarah Balzani-Matulik, Security Manager for West Africa at International SOS, comments:

The January 2022 elections represent a test for President Macky Sall, his Benno Bokk Yakaar ruling majority coalition and opposition alliances, Yewwi Askan Wi and Wallu Senegal. We expect Benno Bokk Yakkar to win or retain seats in urban centres. However, persistent popular socio-economic grievances aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic are likely to drive votes for the Yewwi Askan Wi opposition coalition, particularly in some highly-contested municipalities, such as the capital Dakar, Diourbel region and Ziguinchor (Ziguinchor region). However, the anti-government vote is likely to be divided and weakened by votes obtained by the rival Wallu Senegal coalition. 

If Benno Bokk Yakkar is unsuccessful in these local elections, Sall may try to prevent any further losses by postponing the mid-2022 legislative elections to coincide with the presidential vote in 2024. This could prolong heightened political tensions and instability for several months and fuel further grievances among the population.

In the immediate term, protests and localised violence in main urban centres should be expected during the campaign period until 21 January and following the release of the electoral results, irrespective of the outcome of the vote. The security forces are liable to use tough crowd-control measures, such as tear gas, rubber bullets and potentially live ammunition. Although we do not anticipate the same levels of unrest as during March 2021,  it is likely that the situation to escalate following the announcement of the electoral results, and especially if Benno Bokk Yakkar wins the majority of seats.

Managers, in-country staff and business travellers during the upcoming election period should carefully consider the related risks and review all contingency planning to prepare for an immediate deterioration in the security environment. 


Main security recommendations for Managers ahead of and during the upcoming elections:

  • Review all local and country-level contingency plans – Be prepared for a potential deterioration in the security environment by ensuring local and country-level contingency plans, including evacuation, relocation and stand-fast plans, are current and aligned with COVID-19 restrictions and the latest developments. Brief your in-country workforce on these plans and their own roles and responsibilities.
  • Undertake site security reviews and vulnerability assessments - Ensure office and site security measures are appropriate for the risk environment. Map out key locations such as worksites and accommodation relative to main flashpoints, and how workforce, site and route safety might be impacted by associated unrest. Consider additional security measures for assets near flashpoint areas, to protect against vandalism and looting. Confirm availability of local-national workforce and guarding services personnel, as sustained unrest may impede movement across cities and prevent them from reaching their workstations.
  • Stay apprised of the latest developments - Closely monitor for information on scheduled or impromptu protests as well as key indicators for escalations in the security environment that could influence the ability of your workforce to travel to Senegal and/or remain in-country. Ensure that in-country workforce has access to reliable and timely information, and advice in relation to protests and associated disruption.
  • Maintain open communications - Ensure that communications plans are resilient, and that in-country teams have access to multiple modes of communication, such as local and international SIM cards, based on short-notice communication outages as seen during the unrest in March 2021. In-country workforce should be prepared for short-notice disruption to telecommunications services and should maintain a list of emergency contacts, both electronically and on paper.  
  • Exercise heightened vigilance during protests – Advise your in-country employees to avoid associated protests as a precaution due to the risk of potential violence. If movement is unavoidable, it may be advisable to undertake journeys either early morning or late afternoon, based on the precedent for disruptive protests not to be held early morning or in the afternoon – though this should be re-assessed at the time. Domestic workforce should exercise heightened diligence around polling stations and anticipate a heavy security force deployment on and around election day. Those who need to attend such protests should maintain reliable access to communications in the event of an emergency. 

For more information about how we may assist you:

If you need Emergency Assistance while you are in Senegal, please call the Paris Assistance Centre on +33 (0)155 633 155.

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