Senegal Overview

Photo mosaic of Senegalese street, coastline, and slave statue.

Human Rights in Senegal: A Point of View

by Lamine Kane

Unlike the majority of African countries, Senegal is considered a stable and democratic country. The separation of power between the executive, the legislative, and Judiciary is also considered to be effective.

By the year 2000, the then socialist ruling party was ousted democratically from ballot box by the national liberal Party commonly known as «Parti Democratique Senegalais (P.D.S.).

It can be said that since independence (1960) until now there's a constitutioinal tradition that aim to guarantee freedom of expression and organiation to all people in this country. However, despite this general theoretical framework, human rights are constantly violated. To illustrate this, I intend to discuss the three following main points.

1. The socio-ethnic conflict in southern Senegal:

With the social unrest happening in the southern part of Senegal,since the early eightees which has resulted to a separatist claim from the main land, Joola people involved in the MFDC rebellion mouvement and their sympasizers, are being arrested and kept in prison without being fairly judged.When the crisis was at its peak,there were frequent reports of extra judicial killings,women being raped and large portions of displaced people who sought refuge in neighbouring countries such as:The Gambia, Guinee Bissau.

2. Large portions of individuals who are illiterate deneyed basic civic rights:

More than 90% of the Senegalese people are kept away from their basic civic rights in the sense that they are illiterate in French, which is the imposed official language of this country (official language being understood as the language of schooling, administration and the judiciary).

As the matter of fact, only 10% of the people in this country understand,read and write French while the remaining large portion of people-because of being illiterate, do not fully participate in public life. It goes without saying, that a citizen that cannot fully participate in the political debate, that cannot choose with full knowledge a political programme, or a political leader - from many others, is really a second class citizen.

A country that is governed in a foreign language, which is not spoken by the people is not a free country. Consequently, peoples' basic rights are not fully respected if they are not simply ignored.

3. The female condition

Deep seated cultural beliefs tend to cause women to be treated as inferior human beings. As a consequence, they are victims of several types of discrimination and violence so much so that their basic human rights are unmet.

Female enrollment in education is still very low in various areas in this country.They are discriminated against, as far as jobs, access to credit, and access to decision making circles are concerned. In some cases they are even denyed any property right. Furthermore,in most of househols, women are easy victims of beatings,rape, sexual harassement, and mental harassement. Until now very little indeed, is being done in order to reverse this situation in this country.