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Executive Summary

Senegal is a republic dominated by a strong executive branch. In 2019 voters re-elected Macky Sall as president for a second term of five years in elections local and international observers considered generally free and fair. Observers judged the 2017 legislative elections to be also generally free and fair.

Police and gendarmes are responsible for maintaining law and order. The army shares that responsibility in exceptional cases, such as during a state of emergency. The country was under a state of emergency from January 6 to March 19. The National Police are part of the Ministry of the Interior and operate in major cities. The Gendarmerie is part of the Ministry of Defense and primarily operates outside major cities. The army also reports to the Ministry of Defense. Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over the security forces. There were credible reports members of security forces committed abuses.

The March arrest of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko triggered several days of intense political protests that spiraled into widespread riots and looting, causing 13 deaths, more than 600 injuries, and millions of dollars in property damage.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killings including extrajudicial killings by or on behalf of the government; torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by or on behalf of the government; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest or detention; political prisoners or detainees; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including violence or threats of violence against journalists, censorship, and criminal libel and slander laws; serious government corruption; lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence including but not limited to domestic and intimate partner violence, child, early, and forced marriage, and female genital mutilation; trafficking in persons; crimes involving violence or threats of violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex persons; and existence or use of laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults.

The government took steps to identify, investigate, prosecute, and punish officials who committed abuses or engaged in corruption, whether in the security forces or elsewhere in the government, but impunity for abuses and corruption existed.

In the southern Casamance region, situated between The Gambia and Guinea-Bissau, a low-level insurgency between security forces and armed separatists continued. Sporadic incidents of violence occurred in the Casamance involving individuals associated with various factions of the separatist Movement of Democratic Forces of the Casamance. Incidents related to illegal harvesting of timber by Movement of Democratic Forces of the Casamance separatists occurred as government security forces sought to end this illicit commerce. The government regularly investigated and prosecuted these incidents.

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U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future