Senegal Country Report
Senegal (population 14 million) remains one of the safest, most stable African democracies. Religious and ethnic tensions are rather uncommon in the country; although 95 percent of the population is Muslim, the country’s secular status is constitutionally enshrined.
The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that all travels to Casamance, a southern Senegalese enclave between Gambia and Guinea Bissau, could resume thanks to an improved security situation. However, French authorities emphasize maintaining high levels of vigilance. Since the 1980s, the rebel group MFDC (Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance) has called for greater regional autonomy. Although attacks ‒ generally targeting Senegalese security forces ‒ have been rare over the last two years, new attacks cannot be ruled out. Furthermore, due to the presence of landmines in this area, notably near Ziguinchor and Sédhiou, travelers should stay on main roads at all times. However, the area delimited by the coast, the Zinguinchor-Cap Skiring road, and the Casamance river is safe for travel.
Visitors should also avoid nonessential travel to zones along the border with Mali and certain zones along the border with Mauritania (up to Ndioum) due to security concerns in the Sahel region, as well as the presence of Islamic terrorist groups – including al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) – which have been responsible for the kidnapping of a number of Westerners, including in Mauritania, Mali, and Niger, in recent years.
Furthermore, due to the French military intervention in Mali (ongoing since January 2013) and France’s participation in the international military coalition targeting the terrorist group Islamic State (IS) – which openly targets French interests – Westerners are particularly urged to exercise vigilance while in the country.
Recent attacks in Ivory Coast (Grand-Bassam March 2016), Burkina Faso (Ouagadougou January 2016) and Mali (Bamako November 2015) demonstrate that West Africa is now more than ever at risk of an attack from Sahelian terrorist organizations that have proven themselves capable of carrying out attacks in the heart of capital cities, specifically targeting places frequented by a national and foreign upper-class clientele. Travelers should remain vigilant regarding any suspicious behavior and exercise caution in public areas, near government buildings, and in establishments frequented by foreigners.
Heightened preventive security measures have been introduced in French companies’ office buildings, most particularly those frequently receiving visitors, as well as Western diplomatic missions (security controls, armed patrol, parking limitation). International luxurious hotels in Dakar have also reinforced their security measures.
Visitors should also be wary of relatively high crime rates in the capital Dakar. This risk increases upon nightfall and in specific areas, including the western corniche (near Fann and Fenêtre Mermoz), Place de l’Indépendance in the Plateau neighborhood, beaches, and airport. It is preferable to ensure a trusted welcoming party will be present to receive foreign travelers; it is also essential to be provided with their name, contact details, and photo; fake “chauffeurs” have been reported outside the airport. Adopting a preventive behavior is recommended: be particularly vigilant after dusk, avoid traveling by foot at night, drive with windows closed, doors locked, and all valuables hidden from sight; if attacked, do not look your attacker in the eyes. In addition, French authorities add that a heightened vigilance is advised in touristic areas (Saly, Lac rose) where assaults, sometimes violent, can happen. Burglaries are common outside urban areas in more secluded areas; some have been reported south of Dakar (from Somone to Joal).
Such criminal activity, mostly financially-oriented, has been on the rise over the past decade and is often due to the fragile economic situation; some incidents were caused by drug use. October and November 2016 witnessed increased insecurity, including homicides, in Dakar and its surrounded areas.
Crime rates tend to rise towards the end of the year and Tabaski (the end of Ramadan).
On a separate note, bank card rip-offs and financial fraud are regularly reported throughout the country.
Protests spurred by socio-political issues are common and are sometimes marked by violent clashes between demonstrators and security forces. In October 2016, the Senegalese defense Front, an alliance of the main opposition political parties, organized a major demonstration against the economic and social management of president Macky Sall, as well as the lack of transparency in managing the country's gas resources. The demonstration, the first to be authorized in months, was marked by arrests and confrontations with police forces. Travelers should avoid all protests.
In Dakar, Place de l’Indépendance, Place de l’Obélisque, and Cheikh Anta Diop University are common rallying points.
Travelers should note that power outages (lasting several hours per day) are possible (even in Dakar), particularly in the summer. Water and power cuts lead to social unrest, accompanied by criminal acts targeting power providers (in this instance, Sénélec).
Students and university lecturer’s demonstrations are common in universities. They mostly denounce tuition fee hikes and the lack of payment of research bonuses or scholarships.
Senegalese legislative elections were held in July 2017; the political situation is generally calm in the country but can become tense as elections approach. This was the case during the recent elections which saw current president Macky Sall's party, Benno Bokk Yakaar, up against opposition coalition Manko Taxawu Senegal (MTS) candidate Khalifa Sall (mayor of Dakar , imprisoned since March) and the party of former President Abdoulaye Wade, Wattu Senegal (who returned to Senegal for the elections). The elections were eventually won by Macky Sall's party, which is expected to increase support for his likely candidacy for re-election in the 2019 presidential elections. However, the government has been accused of fraud following the election; some opposition parties have called for boycotts of future elections.
Domestic air travel is operated by small privately-owned airlines that do not operate regularly and cannot accommodate many travelers.
Road collisions significantly increase after nightfall; it is therefore advised to be particularly vigilant at night. Most road accidents are deadly; livestock on less frequented thoroughfares, drivers’ erratic behavior, and poorly-maintained vehicles increase the hazards of Senegalese roads. Using secluded roads in-between urban centers is possible but strictly advised against at night. Although major thoroughfares in principal cities are well-maintained, some – including Fatick-Tambacounda-Kindira – are degraded. Speed bumps are used on the road linking Dakar to Thiès and require drivers to travel slowly. In order to avoid vehicles getting stuck in muddy paths, it is advisable to avoid using non-asphalted roads during the rainy season (July to October).
In light of the terrorist threat prevailing in the country, Senegalese authorities have decided to implement security and identity screenings on major thoroughfares throughout Dakar and in the vicinity of touristic sites. It is therefore imperative to always carry one’s passport and to follow instructions issued by security forces.
Health conditions are to be seriously considered before traveling to Senegal.
Numerous mosquito-borne diseases are present in the country and require taking preventive measures. Malaria is endemic throughout the year in the whole country, although there is a lesser risk from January to June in the central western region. Dengue fever is also endemic and reaches its contamination peak during and after the rainy season. Chikungunya is also present, as is yellow fever. Vaccination against yellow fever is highly recommended – although not mandatory – and proof of such prevention is required to enter the territory for individuals having recently visited or transited through a yellow-fever endemic country. In any case, providing such proof of vaccination can prove useful upon arrival to ease security screenings, even for individuals traveling from Europe.
Foreigners are at risk of contracting diarrheal diseases. Preventive measures are recommended: wash hands regularly, remember tap water is not drinkable, and avoid eating raw fruits and vegetables as well as uncooked meats. Typhoid fever is endemic in Senegal, including in Dakar. Seafood handpicked in wastewater is a primary source of contamination. Cases of cholera have been reported in some regions.
Senegal is located in the “meningitis belt” and is therefore particularly prone to severe meningitis outbreaks. Vaccinations (A, C, Y, W135) are highly recommended to individuals wishing to travel to central and eastern Senegal during the dry season (January to June).
Rabies is present in Senegal; avoid animals.
In 2014, UNAIDS estimated HIV/AIDS prevalence rate amongst 15-49 years old adults at 0.5 percent.
While medical facilities offer decent levels of care in the capital – the Madeleine Clinic is often favored by foreigners – standards are much lower in the rest of the country.
The use of certain medications, especially hypnotic and antidepressant, must be prescribed, or else it may be considered illegal drug use. It is imperative to bring medications in their original boxes with their valid prescriptions (written in English and clearly listing the ingredients).
The rainy season spans from July to October and brings torrential rains that can cause dangerous flooding, landslides, and disrupt ground transport. Major floods affected various neighborhoods in Dakar at the end of August 2016.
It should be noted that as of May 1, 2015, French and British citizens do not require a visa for stays shorter than 90 days but must ensure that their passport is valid until at least six months after their entry date. Individuals wishing to stay in Senegal for longer than three months will need to register with local authorities to get a resident card. Foreign nationals are advised to contact their consulates in the country.
Temperatures are high in Senegal all year long. The rainy season lasts from July until September and tornados sometimes strike during this period. The rest of the year (October-June) weather conditions are dry. Between December and February, the Harmattan, a hot and dry wind from the Sahara Desert, regularly passes through the country.
Useful NumbersCountry Code: +221 Police (Dakar): 33 823 71 49 or 33 823 25 29 UAS: 33 824 24 18
Voltage: 230 V ~ 50 Hz
Senegal: Proof of yellow fever vaccination required for entry
TIMEFRAME: from 2/22/2018, 12:00 AM until 3/15/2018, 11:59 PM (Africa/Dakar).
Senegal: Mayor trial continues February 19 in Dakar /update 7
TIMEFRAME: from 2/19/2018, 12:00 AM until 2/23/2018, 11:59 PM (Africa/Dakar).