ABUJA JULY 03RD 2023: The West African Civil Society Forum (WACSOF) and its partner The Vance Center organized a dialogue webinar on ‘’Democracy and Civic Space in West Africa, the political crisis in Senegal, Analysis, Solutions, the role of ECOWAS and AU’’, on June 27th, 2023.  It has been observed for several months, a continuous deterioration of the political climate in Senegal, which results in a radicalization of political positions, a judicialization of political relationships and a sharp rise in the level of violence in SENEGAL. This is additional to the fact that there has been a resurgence of violent extremism for many years and the past 36 months have been unstable and turbulent for democracy and governance in West Africa. Many years of bad governance have resulted to military coups d’états in Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso. An attempt to overturn the democratic government in Guinea Bissau was foiled as well. The recent violent events in SENEGAL, leading to the death of at least 16 people, following the sentencing of the political party leader of PASTEF, Mr. OUSMANE SONKO to 2 years in prison, is another episode in the series of political violence in SENEGAL. WACSOF is concerned with the reported use of live ammunition against protestors, the disproportionate use of force of security forces against protestors, the arrest and detention of several protestors by the state security forces.

The webinar, was entitled ‘’Democracy and Civic Space in West Africa, the political crisis in Senegal, Analysis, Solutions, the role of ECOWAS and AU’’, and moderated by Mr.  KOMLAN MESSIE, executive director of the West African Civil Society Forum (WACSOF) with Mrs. ADAOBI EGBOKA, Vance Center’s Africa Program Director. The conference highlighted a profound analysis, the comprehension, and the impacts of the political crisis in SENEGAL as well as the potential contamination at regional and continental levels. The role of the Economic Organisation of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union (AU) were analysed and recommendations were proposed to ECOWAS, AU, Civil Society Organisations (CSO), Lawyers and bar associations.

After a brief overview of the political crisis in SENEGAL and the importance of addressing the crisis and its impacts by Mr. Komlan Messie, the conference started with a presentation from Mr. ELIMANE HABY KANE, PRESIDENT, LEGS AFRICA and CO-FOUNDER of MESURe. Mr. ELIMANE KANE helped on understanding the political crisis in SENEGAL and the potential contamination at regional and continental levels. He presented the historical context and factors contributing to the crisis, with the examination of key factors and events and triggers that led to the current situation, additional to an analysis of political institutions, governance issues, and power dynamics involved

The second panelist, MRS AISHA DABO, coordinator of AFRICTIVISTES, brought the participants through the impacts of the crisis, and she made an assessment of the impacts of the crisis at national, regional and continental levels, socio economic (economic, political, civic space) impacts in the light of the decline of democracy, governance and uprising violent extremism in the region

Mr. SALIEU TAAL, barrister and president of the Gambia bar Association, presented what should be the role of ECOWAS and AU, and the reality of the ground. He recalled that, additional to its obligation to respect the AFRICAN CHARTER ON DEMOCRACY, ELECTIONS AND GOVERNANCE (ACDEG), the republic of SENEGAL is signatory of the ECOWAS PROTOCOL ON DEMOCRACY AND GOOD GOVERNANCE, which ate the legal frameworks on democracy at continental and regional levels.

The last panelist, Mr. IBRAHIMA KANE, human right activist and founding member of RADHO, a Senegalese human rights organization, after a deep analysis of the situation, suggested different recommendations for peaceful solution in Senegal and a sustainable democracy in West Africa.

After questions and answers session between the panelists and the participants, and before a closing remark from the chair of WASCOF, Mr. BUBA KHAN, the following recommendations were made as output of the conference.

After the analysis of the situation in Senegal and in the West African region, the conference

  1. Recommends to deliver over the following recommendations to ECOWAS and AU via WACSOF and any partner
  2. Invites ECOWAS and the AFRICAN UNION and all partners to immediately trigger their preventive diplomacy processes, and to involve the national and regional Civil Society Organisations in them, in the spirit of the ECOWAS OF PEOPLE.
  3. Calls on the authorities and the opposition parties to demonstrate their maturity and to assume their historical responsibility before the Senegalese people and the African people to respect the legal frameworks available, to protect the citizens and to maintain a climate of peace, before, during and after the elections so that SENEGAL keeps its reputation as an island of democracy
  4. Calls on the authorities and political parties to create the required conducive environment for a frank, constructive and inclusive dialogue
  5. Calls on all parties to refrain from the use of force or violence or the destruction of property
  6. Invites civil society organizations, elders, traditional and religious leaders to use their influence for a peaceful dialogue.
  7. Invites the Senegalese authorities to commence a transparent investigation into all deaths, especially following the death of civilians, including a minor, during demonstrations against the government

The organisers, panelists, and the  participants reiterates its availability to help and collaborate in any dialogue process to bring peace

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With more than 1000 Member Organizations, the WEST AFRICAN CIVIL SOCIETY FORUM (WACSOF) is the umbrella network of the Civil Society in West Africa, covering 18 thematic areas, with representation in 15 countries of ECOWAS. WACSOF is the channel for institutionalized dialogue between civil society organizations and ECOWAS. WACSOF builds capacity, advocates, mobilizes civil society, engages in the formulation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies for a prosperous, stable and peaceful Africa. WACSOF is an excellent channel, a one-stop-shop for systematic engagement between institutions and civil society organizations, for impactful results. www.Wacsof-Foscao.Org