Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM


Working People and Youth Must Remain Steadfast, Organise and Ready for More Concerted Struggle!

On April 2, 2024, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, was inaugurated as the 5th Senegal’s elected President following his victory in the March 24th election. Faye won with over 54% of the total votes cast in the first round of voting. This makes the election historical given the fact that it is the first time since the country independence that the opposition won election at the first run. He is also the youngest elected President in Africa.

By Abbey Trotsky

The election was preceded by a lot of drama and intrigues. Notably among these was an attempt by the former President Marky Sall to delay by ten months the election which was initially scheduled to hold on 25th February, 2024 to 15th December, 2024. This would have meant that he would have stayed President after his term in office expired. He was to rescind the decision afterwards when mass protests prompted the Supreme Court to overrule him. This was after a previous attempt by him to manipulate the Constitution so as to run for third term was frustrated by a series of mass protests. Indeed, the country was in chaos in the last years of Sall government as the working people and youth were determined to see the last of him and his cohort. Sall responded with vicious repression. As a result, dozens of protesters were killed and 1,000 people were imprisoned on politically motivated charges, according to Human Rights Watch.

Among the political prisoners were Faye and the leading opposition figure Qusmane Sonko, who had contested Presidential election in 2019. Sonko, was sentenced to prison having been convicted of “corrupting the minds of youths”. In reality, the conviction was politically motivated. Sall and the establishment could not stand him. He was a thorn in the flesh of the political elite, railing at the endemic corruption and thereby captivated young people as the alternative. He was later disqualified to participate in the 2024 election and Faye stood as his replacement. Faye was imprisoned over trumped-up charges including defamation of character and contempt of court, following his Facebook post criticizing Sonko’s persecution. Mass protests forced the release of Faye and Sonko 10 days to the election

Faye’s victory was greeted with huge enthusiasm by young people who see it as a break from the old order. “I feel free. We are finally free. Senegal is free,” Elhadji Thiam, a 27-year-old merchant enthusiastically told Guardian (Guardian, London, March 27). Under Sall, the economy recorded an average growth rate of 5 percent but this did not translate into improved living standards for the vast majority. More than one half of the country representing 57.3% of estimated population of 18 million people live below the poverty line. The inflation rate was on the rise as reflected in the sharp increase in the cost of food and non-alcoholic beverages across the country. The young people are among the worst hit by the economic crisis. High youth unemployment rates and a related migration crisis have reached record highs in recent years. More than 60% of Senegal’s population is under the age of 25 (Guardian March 27)

Corruption is seen as a major factor for the economic crisis. For instance, 73 percent of Senegalese say that corruption increased over the previous 12 months, according to data obtained by Afrobarometer in 2022. Hence the message of Faye and Sonko on the evil of corruption resonated with the working people and youth.

So, they have reposed hope for a better life in Faye-led government. Faye promised to govern with humility, transparency and fight corruption at all levels. It is true that corruption and unfortunate grip of western imperialism greatly militate against the economic prosperity of Senegal as well as other African countries. Therefore, given the social base and radical forces behind Faye’s victory, there is a possibility that he may be forced to make scapegoat out of a few corrupt individuals at high places.  Unfortunately, this will be too tokenistic and little to end the age-long tradition of corruption bedeviling the country unless the capitalist system is overthrown. The root cause of corruption anywhere is the iniquitous capitalist system of exploitation that breeds corruption and creates a veritable and enabling environment for it to strive.

Faye also hopes to restore Senegal’s national sovereignty and implement a program of “left-wing Pan-Africanism” partly by replacing CFA franc with another currency. The CFA franc, which is pegged to the euro, ties the economy of Senegal and many Francophone African countries to the apron-strings of the French imperialism. However, from media reports it appears there is not yet a clarity on what he plans to do on the currency. There is a report that he seeks to switch to an Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)-led currency first, and if this fails, he will put forward the idea of a national currency for public discussion (Foreign Policy Africa’s Brief April 3). There is another report that Senegal will push for more autonomy for the central bank that oversees the West African CFA franc currency (SEMAFOR April 16)

Nonetheless, any action against relics of colonialism should be supported. However, it should be noted, replacing CFA with another currency or reforming it will not translate into any meaningful benefit for mass of the working people and youth if the capitalist system within which such currency is used is sustained. We have witnessed that in Nigeria in the years since the naira finally replaced the pound and ended the currency linkage with Britain in 1973.

Faye is also seeking to renegotiate mining and energy contracts just as joint offshore natural gas project with Mauritania—which will export energy to Europe—is set to begin later this year. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasts that natural gas projects will boost Senegal’s GDP growth to double digits this year. (Foreign Policy, April 3)

To this effect he has announced the plan to audit of mining, oil and gas contracts as a step before the renegotiation.  At the same time, he has assured the foreign investors of protection of their rights. Apparently to mitigate the doubt over his being prepared to be business-friendly, he has appointed a former senior economist at the IMF as his economy minister, something that demonstrates his willingness to work within capitalism. The reality is that the political movement behind Faye, Patriots of Senegal (PASTEF), is an amalgam of different social forces and all do not seem to agree with the anti-imperialist rhetoric of Sonko who is now Prime Minister. This also foreshadows the possibility of a conflict in future.

Faye has rightly said he will protect “the interests of the state and the people”. But it is not likely to achieve permanently this without the nationalization and democratic control of the mining, oil and gas sector, something he does not appear to be prepared for. Even if he effects a state takeover of some of the contracts or business in the sector, without democratic management and control of the state oil company by the elected representatives of working people organisations, as the experience has shown with what obtain in other oil producing African countries, the ordinary people cannot significantly benefit from the wealth.

Nonetheless, there will be more revenue to the country through the oil and gas contracts. This could make it possible for Faye to implement some limited social program. Already, he has promised to significantly reduce the cost of living. But working people and youth must not go to bed. Being essentially pro-capitalist despite its radical rhetoric, it cannot be ruled out that struggle would be needed to force Faye government to fulfil some of its promises. It should be recalled that Sall was also brought to power by a mass movement. Yet under him economic deprivation was the lot of the vast majority despite high economic growth.

Therefore, unless Faye-led government completely breaks away with capitalist system and run on the basis of different socio-economic programme of socialism, it may be unable to meet the hope and expectations of the working people and youth of Senegal. By socialism, it means that the mainstays of the economy must be nationalized under the democratic control and management of the working people, youth and elected representative of professional groups alongside a government representing the working class and oppressed. For instance, the newly discovered oil and gas which is currently in the hand of private sector both local and foreign, will have to be placed under public ownership and democratically controlled and managed by the elected representatives of the working people. This is the arrangement that can ensure that oil and gas wealth can be amassed and used for the benefits of the vast majority and the genuine development of the society and. No amount of renegotiation of deal with foreign investors as being promised by Faye can guarantee same on a permanent basis.

It is not likely, on the basis of the current consciousness which is just anti-corruption and anti-imperialist, for the working people and youth to have reached a socialist conclusion at present. But the experience under Faye government may make it possible. The need to organize in order to struggle will begin to be understood. The building of democratically run trade unions, other popular organizations and, in particular the creation of a mass working people’s party with a revolutionary socialist programme are the key tasks if the demands of the working class, oppressed and youth are to be properly met.