Abdullahi Bilal

In Senegal, a seismic shift occurred in the political landscape on February 3, 2024, when President Macky Sall, who had held power since 2012 and completed two terms in office, declared the postponement of the presidential election originally slated for February 25. Despite the Constitutional Council’s rejection of the delay on February 15, 2024, denouncing it as an “attempted institutional coup d’état,” Sall persisted in his decision.

This manoeuvre represents a desperate bid to cling to power, particularly given that his term was due to conclude on April 2. The swift organization of an election for March 24, coupled with the dissolution of the government to favour Sall’s preferred candidate, Amadou Bâ, has only intensified public unrest.

The demonstrations against Sall’s rule highlighted widespread frustration with his government’s corruption, repressive policies, and close ties to capitalist multinationals, particularly French companies like Keolis-SNCF, Colas-Bouygues, and Auchan. Sall’s announcement of a “national consultation” in late February aimed at reconciliation was met with skepticism, as 17 out of 19 presidential candidates refused to participate, citing concerns over the government’s lack of sincerity. The subsequent approval of a controversial “general amnesty” law by the Assembly, despite opposition denunciation, underscored the regime’s disregard for justice and accountability.

Despite government repression and manipulation, opposition movements in Senegal have continued to mobilize. Various platforms, including Aar Sunu Election, FC25, and the Front for the Defence of Democracy, have united against Sall’s regime. The closure of Cheikh-Anta-Diop University of Dakar (Ucad) in June 2023 following protests further galvanized dissent. Amnesty International’s confirmation of human rights abuses related to the protests added urgency to calls for change.

 This mass uprising in the cities against the continuation Sall in power must be welcomed and applauded. This is what has given bite to the opposition against Sall. However the struggle for bourgeois democratic order and constitutional rule to prevail as championed by the opposition politicians must not be confused with the need for democratic rights, with the need for the working masses to have a government that will put their own interest and wellbeing first and foremost. The celebrated involvement of workers, peasant, farmers, women, and youth in series of protest to ensure genuine democratic elections and prevent the arbitrary rule of entrenched elites, will in the end amount to nothing, if the working masses themselves are not independently organised politically struggling to come to power to replace the entire crops of the ruling class.

It is in this context that the formation of a common front against Sall’s regime, consisting of diverse opposition groups, played no little role in his fall. It was this mass movement, despite the arrest and trial of oppositional leaders that cut short is attempt at a third term, and indeed resulted into defeat for his choice candidate.

The Victory of Faye at the polls

The recent presidential election in Senegal, which saw the rise of the 44 year old Bassirou Diomaye Faye, shows the power in people and the genuine readiness in Senegalese people need for fundamental change in the country’s political and economic landscape. While Faye’s ascent to power may offer a glimmer of hope for Senegalese citizens, it is crucial to recognize that a mere change in political leadership is insufficient to address the deep-rooted issues of inequality, poverty, and exploitation. Nor is a change and the coming to power of the young on its own, enough to improve the lot of the working masses.

To truly guarantee a better life for the people of Senegal, Faye’s administration must embrace socialist principles and undertake bold measures such as nationalizing key industries and resources. By placing the commanding heights of the economy under democratic control and cutting ties with French imperialism, it is only on that basis that his administration can pave the way for genuine economic empowerment and better live for all Senegalese citizens.

The struggle for a socialist transformation of society is bound to gain momentum, if not in the immediate but later. Faye and Ousmane Sonko will need more than rhetoric to turn things around for the working masses. While we agree with him that things need to be done differently and steps now being taken to renegotiate existing external economics deals with European powers and companies is welcomed. And the projected establishment of a Senegalese currency away from CFA franc could grant the government more economic leverage. The fact remains that nothing short of nationalization of the key sectors of the economy under democratic control and management of the working people will make the wealth and resources of Senegal available to meet the aspirations of millions who have been marginalized by neoliberal capitalism. The fight for socialism is not just about political change but also about transforming economic and social structures to prioritize the needs of the people over profit and super profit for the privileged few.

The electoral victory of youthful 44 years Faye as president reechoes the role young people can actual play given the demographic advantage they current have both in Senegal and elsewhere on the African continent. They will continue to be in the forefront in the struggles against authoritarianism, capitalism and as well as French imperialism as the case is in Senegal. But this will in reality demand organizing, mobilizing, and building alliances, workers, women, and youth can challenge the power of capital and create a society that serves the interests of the many, not the few.

The path to socialism requires building mass movements that transcend narrow electoral politics to confront the power of entrenched elites both nationally and internationally. Can Faye and co provide the needed leadership with which workers, farmers, peasant women, and youth can organize independently of all existing political parties and corporate interests to articulate a clear vision for a socialist future. This includes advocating for policies that prioritize living wages, free education, and well-paid jobs for all. The struggle for socialism is part of a global movement against capitalism and imperialism. In West Africa and beyond, workers, women, and youth must continue to organize and mobilize to challenge the power of corrupt elites and build a more just and equitable society.