Senegal: Civil society and human rights defenders mobilize for a transparent election

At the Demba Diop Stadium voting centre in Dakar, Senegal, a voter puts her ballot paper in a box at polling station number 1.
© Habibou Dia/OHCHR

“As human rights defenders, it is important that we help mobilize young people to become more involved in defending their civil and political rights,” said Jaly Badiane, a Senegalese human rights activist and blogger.

Badiane was part of Senegal Vote, a “civi-tech” initiative that combined citizen engagement and ICT to encourage participation in the country’s recent election, especially among younger people. The initiative was led by the Wa Mbedmi Association (“those in the street” in Wolof), a non-profit dedicated to participatory citizenship.

"[T]he Wa Mbedmi Association… challenges those in power and engages in collaborative and community dynamics,” Badiane said. "The goal of our initiative is to make relevant electoral information understandable, in a language that is accessible to a large number of voters.”

To guarantee the fairness of the 2022 elections in Senegal, human rights defenders and CSOs worked to ensure free, fair and transparent elections. One of those was the Women's Watch Platform for Peace and Security, known as Ëtu Jamm (Peace Space in Wolof), which is an election monitoring group composed of 50 Senegalese and pan-African women's CSOs that is coordinated by Femmes Africa Solidarité (FAS).

Ëtu Jamm monitored and observed the election from 30 July to 1 August. According to Coumba Fall Venn, Director of the Pan-African Centre for Gender, Peace and Development and the FAS Regional Director of Programmes, Ëtu Jamm served as "an early warning and rapid response mechanism to possible unrest or other forms of violence during electoral processes.” Its establishment was “inspired by Security Council resolution 1325 and the African Union Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa.”

Ëtu Jamm and Senegal Vote were supported by the UN Human Rights Regional Office for West Africa. OHCHR "strengthened the capacities of election observers through trainings on human rights, gender and elections,” said Mouhamadou Sow, a Programme Analyst for the Office. “OHCHR provided two training sessions over two days to a group of over 100 observers from different parts of the country, who were deployed by Ëtu Jamm to monitor parliamentary elections.”

Senegal Vote undertook online monitoring before and during the elections and young people were given online tools and content they could use before election day. It also deployed volunteer observers, primarily in the 14 regions of Senegal, who provided regular feedback on the conduct of the election with images and videos.

During the elections, Ëtu Jamm deployed 60 women observers and 20 journalists, who monitored the elections at 350 polling stations in Dakar and in the regions. At the polling stations, many women voters asked women monitors for guidance about the process and were reassured that they had the right to enter the polling stations to cast their votes. The interventions of Ëtu Jamm and Senegal Vote contributed to an election day with few incidents of violence, both online and offline.

An OHCHR Programme Analyst, a volunteer in charge of election observation, and an officer of the Senegal Vote initiative, discuss how to mobilize for a transparent election in Senegal.
Mouhamadou Sow, OHCHR Programme Analyst,  speaks to Emmanuel Baloucoune, a volunteer in charge of election observation at the Demba Diop Stadium voting centre, and Jaly Badiane of the Senegal Vote initiative. © Habibou Dia/OHCHR
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