In late June, Senegal celebrated the feast of Tabaski, our version of the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha. But for some, the festivities were overshadowed by mourning for those who lost their lives in an inexcusable outbreak of violence last month. Civil unrest has tested Senegal’s social cohesion and our long tradition—enviable in Africa—of peace and stability. Our fellow citizens’ lives should not be sacrificed on the altar of political interests. We have an obligation to protect the life and dignity of all Senegalese.
My government is now investigating the causes of the violence, particularly the malign forces behind the unrest, which coincided with a torrent of hate speech on social media and cyber-attacks against strategic government websites and vital services such as water and electricity. Nothing can justify such acts of violence and disruption, not to mention the destruction of public and private property, including universities and schools. The subversive groups behind the violence clearly wanted to plunge our country into darkness and destabilize our democracy.
Senegal was hit hard by the economic downturn during the COVID-19 pandemic and by the subsequent cost-of-living crisis, which is making life difficult for many households. But I know that Senegal’s hard-working people have the strength to overcome such challenges. Senegal has one of the strongest and most stable democracies in Africa, and I owe a great debt of gratitude to my predecessors for this proud record. We have made massive progress since independence 60 years ago, and we now have the opportunity to leave a great legacy. The decisions we make together will shape the future of Senegal and the lives of our children and theirs.
That brings me to the choice for president on February 25 next year, when Senegalese will continue the country’s proud tradition of holding free and fair elections. I have been gratified by the many agencies, NGOs, and individuals—including 512 of the country’s 601 mayors and department-council presidents—urging me to stand for another five-year term. I have also received encouragement and support from the diaspora, youth movements, women, our respected sages, teachers, Arabists, religious organizations, and many others. All have demonstrated an eagerness to lead the fight for my re-election. To all these compatriots, I want to express my deep gratitude.
After long and careful consideration, however, I have decided that I will not stand as a candidate, even though the constitution permits me to do so. This decision may surprise many who have extended me their admiration, trust, and loyalty. But I would remind everyone that Senegal is greater than any one individual. Our country is blessed with other leaders who are also capable of leading us to the next level of development.
I have announced this decision to put to rest the rampant speculation about my candidacy. For the rest of my term, I will remain focused on running the country and delivering on my promises to the people. Contrary to rumors that I harbored new presidential ambitions, I have not forgotten what I said many times previously: that the term I began in 2019 was my second and last one. My sense of personal honor and historical responsibility demand that I keep my word and preserve my dignity.
I am determined to continue Senegal’s proud tradition of democracy. Until the handover of power next April, I will devote all my strength and energy to defending our republic’s constitutional institutions. That means showing respect for court decisions, safeguarding our territorial integrity, and protecting people and property.
We have made undeniable achievements, and we still have incredible potential. But we must remain vigilant and aware of the difficulties we face. The obstacles before us are real, and we have enemies working against us both inside and outside the country. For the sake of both present and future generations, Senegal must stay on the path of peace, stability, social cohesion, respect for the law, public order, and national unity.
That will require all of us to adhere to the civic and religious principles that underpin our model of society. We must stand up for democracy and freedom and uphold the best of our collective Senegalese and African identity—an identity that is both rooted in our traditions and open to a world of innovation and opportunity. We owe our unique national success to it, and we must not take it for granted.
Macky Sall is President of Senegal