|The State Department web site below is a permanent electronic archive of information released prior to January 20, 2001. Please see www.state.gov for material released since President George W. Bush took office on that date. This site is not updated so external links may no longer function. Contact us with any questions about finding information. |
NOTE: External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views contained therein.
TITLE: SENEGAL HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993 DATE: JANUARY 31, 1994 AUTHOR: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE SENEGAL Senegal is a Republic with an elected President, Abdou Diouf, who has been in office since 1981, and a unicameral legislature controlled by the President's Socialist Party (PS) since independence from France in 1960. Diouf and the PS again won presidential elections in February and legislative elections in May (gaining 84 of the National Assembly's 120 seats). The opposition parties, led by the Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS, which won 27 seats), charged extensive fraud in the presidential and legislative elections. However, after much controversy and delay, the Constitutional Court subsequently certified the presidential and later the legislative results as official. International observers noted that there had been irregularities in the presidential voting, but declared the election had been generally "free and fair." The postelection period was further marred, first by the assassination of Babacar Seye, the Vice President of the Constitutional Court (Supreme Court), as votes were being certified for the National Assembly election, and then by the Government detaining and later charging several opposition figures, including Abdoulaye Wade, presidential contender on the PDS ticket, with the Seye murder. The Senegalese armed forces, numbering about 15,000, are professional and disciplined. They traditionally remain aloof from politics. The paramilitary gendarmerie reportedly is less professional and less disciplined. The armed forces became the center of controversy in operations in the southernmost region of Senegal, the Casamance region, against the separatist group, the Movement of Democratic Forces of the Casamance (MFDC). There were a number of reports of serious abuses by both the military forces and particularly by the MFDC (see below and Section 1.g.). Eventually, the Government signed a cease-fire agreement on July 8 with the MFDC. At year's end, the cease-fire agreement appeared to be holding. Senegal is overwhelmingly agricultural, with more than 70 percent of the labor force engaged in farming, largely in peanut production. Since 1983 the Government has pursued a structural adjustment program, supported by the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and major bilateral donors, intended to reduce the role of government, to encourage the private sector, and to stimulate economic growth. Nonetheless, the economy remained depressed. An emergency plan adopted in August by the National Assembly, which included a 15 percent reduction in civil servants' salaries, met strenuous opposition from trade unions, opposition parties, and merchants' associations in the form of repeated strikes. Although traditionally Senegal has had a strong record in support of human rights, there were serious human rights abuses in 1993 against a background of deepening internal political conflict over the elections and the Seye assassination, declining economic performance with several general strikes, and extensive military and terrorist operations in the Casamance with high death tolls (over 200 persons killed). The MFDC, in particular, committed many acts of violence, including torture, beatings, and extrajudicial killing of villagers in the Casamance. On February 21 alone, the day of the presidential elections, MFDC members killed 24 persons, thereby carrying out a previously issued threat to attack Casamance voters and politicians, and a landmine reportedly planted by the MFDC killed 20 others. Government troops reportedly killed 80 MFDC rebels and took no prisoners during a March battle; the press and local human rights groups charged the army with committing extrajudicial killings. The Government failed, however, to investigate. According to the independent press, the army also reportedly engaged in indiscriminate shelling of civilian targets in the Casamance. There was one credible report that police tortured a prominent Member of Parliament (M.P.)--the Government was extremely slow to investigate and has yet to punish the perpetrators--and police reportedly sometimes use force in questioning suspects. Few, if any, police are tried and punished for such abuses. Other human rights problems include some restrictions on freedom of the press (including government domination of the electronic media), and on freedom of association, and domestic violence and discrimination against women. RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from: a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing There was one death as a result of police firing on an unarmed political demonstration by opposition M.P.'s and others in November (see Section 2.b.). For details on killings connected with separatist-related violence in the Casamance region, including the deaths of seven Red Cross workers by a landmine explosion see Section 1.g. In that violence, MFDC rebels assassinated the president of the rural community of Oukou, Omar Diatta, on April 13 because of his support for the Government. Unknown assailants killed the first Vice-President of Senegal's Constitutional Court, Babacar Seye, on May 15. Seye was killed as he drove home from downtown Dakar following the first day of the Court's deliberations on the provisional results of Senegal's May 9 legislative election. On May 18, police apprehended PDS opposition leader Abdoulaye Wade and two senior advisers, Ousmane Ngom and Jean Paul Dias, for questioning. On May 19, police arrested two more alleged PDS supporters, Cleodore Sene and Pape Ibrahama Diakhate, in The Gambia. Sene reportedly confessed to driving the hit car and implicated PDS supporter Assane Diop, Wade's financial counselor, Samuel Sarr, and PDS deputy Mody Sy. On May 28, Sene recanted his testimony in letters to Wade and to the independent press. Sene claimed that members of the ruling PS planned and financed the murder in order to discredit the PDS. On June 9, the National Assembly set up a commission to follow developments in the investigation of the Seye assassination. It had not issued a report by year's end. Subsequently, on October 1, the governmental authorities charged Abdoulaye Wade, his wife, Viviane, and PDS deputies Abdoulaye Faye and Ousmane Ngom, with complicity in the assassination and compromising the security of the State. All four remained free. According to the Constitution, since Wade, Faye, and Ngom are sitting members of the National Assembly, the Assembly would have to waive their immunity before they could be tried. The five others arrested in connection with the Seye murder remained in jail at year's end; Sene, Diakhate, and Diop on charges of murder, and Sarr and Sy on charges of complicity. b. Disappearance There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances. Ibou Sagna and Famara Bodian, two MFDC rebels who, according to a September 1992 report in the independent press, disappeared after being detained by the army near Kaguite, have not been found. c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment While the authorities generally respect the legal prohibition on physical abuse, there are credible reports that police sometimes subject detainees to beatings and other mistreatment, often during the "garde a vue" (detention) period between arrest and appearance before a magistrate. Moreover, there was credible evidence that Mody Sy, PDS M.P., was subjected to electroshock torture immediately after his arrest on May 20. The Government took 9 days to comply with the request by Sy's lawyer for a medical examination and was otherwise slow to investigate this matter. At year's end, he remained in jail. No trial date had been set. There were credible reports of torture of villagers by factions of the MFDC. These usually consisted of beatings, some of which resulted in death. There were also credible reports that women were raped by MFDC forces prior to the July 8 cease-fire. There were no reports of rape or abuse by government officials. Some of the MFDC violence was aimed at 1993 electoral activities (see Section l.g.). Prisons are overcrowded, and food and health care are inadequate. As a result, prisoners may suffer life- or health-threatening conditions. d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile The Constitution's prohibitions against arbitrary arrest and detention are generally respected. However, there was considerable question regarding the evidence used as the basis for the arrest and detention of PDS members for the assassination of Constitutional Court Judge Seye. One of the major witnesses in the case first implicated the other defendants and then recanted his testimony. However, the lawyers for the defendants continue to request evidence from the court to support the charges. Warrants, issued by judges, are required for arrests. A person suspected of a crime may legally be held without charge for 48 hours after arrest and may be held up to 72 hours if ordered by a public prosecutor. This period may be doubled legally in the case of crimes against the security of the State. Senegalese law has no writ of habeas corpus. During temporary detention, the prisoner has no access to family or to an attorney. After the prisoner is charged, both the family and an attorney are permitted visits. In the case of the PDS members, on October 8 the detainees claimed that they were denied family visiting privileges. Temporary custody is valid for a maximum period of 6 months, but it may be renewed for additional 6-month periods if the investigating magistrate certifies that more time is required. Extended "temporary" detention or custody is permitted when civil authorities determine that there is a threat of civil unrest or that a person is a threat to himself or others. Courts may review decisions of extended detention or custody. In May the authorities arrested in Dakar six M.P.'s, members of two opposition parties, for participating in a demonstration which the Government had banned. They were released shortly afterwards. The deputies were demonstrating for the release of opposition PDS deputy Mody Sy. The PDS alleged that the arrest and indictment of its members in the Seye murder case was arbitrary and politically motivated. In July, 256 Senegalese, who were being held on separatist activity charges, were released from jail. Their release came as part of the implementation of the cease-fire accord signed between the Government and the MFDC on July 8, 1993. Exile is not used as a means of political control. The leader of the southern front of the MFDC, Abbe Diamacoune Senghor, reportedly lived in self-exile in Guinea-Bissau for 8 months. On March 20, Senghor returned to Ziguinchor, in the Casamance region of Senegal. Police did not attempt to take him into custody. e. Denial of Fair Public Trial Senegal has an active and well-trained judiciary, which is constitutionally independent of the executive, the legislature, and the armed forces. However, low pay, poor working conditions, and family and political ties make magistrates vulnerable to outside pressures. Moreover, the role of the Constitutional Court became highly controversial and political in 1993 in certifying national elections. The Court President, Keba Mbaye, resigned in March before the presidential vote was certified, admonishing politicians to respect the electoral process. There were reports that the PS had pressured Mbaye to change the election results. The Court subsequently dismissed opposition claims of election malpractices in May 1993. Constitutionally, defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Trials are public, and defendants have the right to be present in court, to confront witnesses, to present evidence, and to have a defense attorney. Despite a provision for defendants to have a lawyer at public expense, in practice some defendants are denied legal assistance due to lack of funding. Ordinary courts are presided over by a panel of judges. In criminal cases ordinary citizens also serve on the panel. Although three new courts were created in May 1992 to replace the Supreme Court, which was abolished in accordance with the Election Code, they are understaffed and in some cases are not fully functional. The new courts are the Council of State for Administrative Questions, the Constitutional Council for Matters Relating to the Constitution, and a Court of Appeals. There are three other categories of special courts, two of which have rarely met, i.e., the High Court of Justice, created for the sole purpose of trying senior government officials for treason or malfeasance, and the Court for the Repression of the Unlawful Accumulation of Wealth, and the military court system. Civilians may not be tried by military courts. The right of appeal exists in all courts except military courts and in the special "illegal enrichment" Court. There were no political detainees or prisoners at the end of 1993 except for those held in connection with the Babacar Seye assassination and religious leader Moustapha Sy, who is also being detained for "various offenses against the Head of State." f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence The Constitution prohibits arbitrary invasion of the home, and there is relatively little government interference in the private lives of citizens, particularly in the rural areas. Search warrants normally are required and may be issued only by judges and in accordance with procedures established by law. In practice, however, searches without warrants occasionally take place. g. Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian Law in Internal Conflicts There have been repeated violations of human rights in the southernmost region of Senegal, the Casamance region, mainly committed by the MFDC, but also by the army and the gendarmerie. Most of the violations took place prior to the cease-fire on July 8 between the Government and the MFDC. The MFDC, a predominantly Diola minority ethnic group, has been campaigning for the independence of the Casamance region for over 10 years. Until August 1992, the military and gendarmes had been restricted to their barracks as required by the May 1991 Agreement of Bissau between the Government and the MFDC. However, as rebel activity increased in the Casamance, government forces redeployed and engaged the MFDC units in several battles. Several MFDC-initiated incidents heightened tensions, beginning with the death of seven Red Cross workers on January 25 by mine explosions. On the day of the presidential election, February 21, MFDC troops killed 24 persons, following MFDC threats to attack Casamance voters and politicians. The separatist movement had previously announced a ban on politics and voting in the Casamance. The MFDC was also held responsible for the deaths of 20 other persons that day when a mine blew up under a van rented by the Socialist Party to bring its members to the polls. In larger engagements between the Senegalese army and MFDC rebels, the fighting in March at Badem, near Ziguinchor, left 80 dead, and a major battle in April near the town of Oussouye resulted in at least 100 rebels and 3 government soldiers dead. While estimates varied widely, the two battles resulted in the highest death tolls in the recent history of Casamance violence. As the military held few MFDC rebel prisoners following these significant engagements, the local press and local human rights associations charged that the army had engaged in extrajudicial killings. These charges could not be confirmed, and there had been no followup official investigation. As the MFDC normally does not leave their dead or wounded members behind in battle, this could also be a possible explanation. The press and other observers not only questioned the military's action in these major battles but also criticized the army for periodic indiscriminate shelling of suspected rebel areas, which jeopardized the lives of innocent civilians. There were several incidents following the July 8 cease-fire, including in September the killing of a young MFDC member during a search at a police checkpoint. The number of civilian deaths due to the fighting in the Casamance in 1993 could not be determined but was believed to be as high as 250. No one has been charged in any of the above killings. Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: a. Freedom of Speech and Press While the Constitution provides for freedom of speech and press, the press is restricted by laws prohibiting the expression of views which "discredit" the State, incite the population to disorder, or disseminate "false news." No one was prosecuted under these laws in 1993, although religious leader Moustapha Sy has been charged with offenses against the State. In 1993 numerous daily and weekly independent newspapers began circulation. Prior to this, Le Soleil, a newspaper controlled by the Government, had been the sole daily. A broad spectrum of thought and opinion is available through regularly published magazines and newspapers. The broadcast media is controlled, not through self-censorship, but by government licensing arrangements for radio and by the fact that the government operates the only television station. Political views expressed in the independent press are often critical of the Government and its programs; government officials, politicians, and the political parties participating in the Government are not immune. Publishers are required to register with the Central Court prior to starting publication, but such registrations are routinely approved. Publications, including foreign publications critical of the Government, were not censored or banned. Press coverage of the 1993 presidential and legislative elections was extensive in all dailies, although Le Soleil heavily weighted its coverage towards the ruling party. Access to the electronic media is controlled by the Government and continued to pose problems for opposition parties in the 1993 elections. The authorities expanded broadcast media coverage of opposition party activities but relegated it to off-peak hours. There is no other television service available to the general public, and the only domestically produced radio broadcasting is from the government station. The Government approved an application for a private radio station but with conditions that made it financially unrealistic for the owner to begin operating, i.e., high payments to the state-owned radio and television corporation and limitations on advertising. Schools and universities enjoy academic freedom. b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association In general, Senegalese freely exercise their constitutional rights of assembly and association, although demonstrations or protest meetings against government policies are monitored closely by security forces. Prior authorization for public demonstrations is required. During the 1993 election period, the Government allowed the opposition parties to hold preelection rallies, but it also arrested six opposition members in May for participating in a demonstration not authorized by the Government (see Section 1.d.). Three M.P.'s and some 87 others were found guilty on November 12 of participating in an illegal demonstration called for by the political opposition on November 5 to protest cuts in civil service salaries and the jailing of Moustarchadine leader Moustapha Sy. The police retaliated with heavy doses of tear gas to disperse the crowd and at one point used live ammunition, killing one person. Senegalese wishing to form associations must register with the Ministry of Interior except for business-related associations, which are registered with the Ministry of Commerce. By law and in practice, the Ministry of Interior is obliged to register such groups, so long as the objectives of association are clearly stated and are not in violation of the law. c. Freedom of Religion Senegal is a secular State, and freedom of religion, a legal right, exists in practice. Islam is the religion of 94 percent of the population; other religions are also practiced freely. Missionary activity is permitted, and foreign Protestant missionaries are active in several regions of the country. Conversion is permitted, and there is no discrimination against minority religions. In theory, adherence to a particular religion confers no official advantage or disadvantage in civil, political, economic, military, or other sectors. In practice, membership in an Islamic sect may afford certain political and economic privileges. Both Islamic and Christian organizations publish periodicals. Koranic and Catholic schools exist alongside the public school system, and the Mouride Brotherhood, an Islamic sect, has an Islamic university in its headquarters city of Touba. d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation The Constitution provides all citizens the right to travel and establish themselves freely anywhere in Senegal, a right respected in practice. Exit visas are not required for travel outside the country. There is no restriction on emigration, and repatriates are not disadvantaged on their return to Senegal. A Senegalese citizen by birth may not have his citizenship annulled for any reason. A naturalized citizen may have his citizenship revoked if it is proved in a court of law that he obtained his citizenship fraudulently or if he has been convicted of a crime and has been a citizen less than 15 years. Ethnic violence against Senegalese in Mauritania and Mauritanians in Senegal in 1989 resulted in the breaking of relations between the two countries and the repatriation of thousands of Senegalese and Mauritanian nationals. Senegal accepted back its own nationals and provided asylum to Afro-Mauritanians expelled by the Government of Mauritania. At year's end, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had registered 55,000 refugees from Mauritania, most from the Toucouleur and Peulh ethnic groups. Refugees have freedom of movement and are not subject to forced repatriation. An estimated 80 percent would like to return to Mauritania. Refugees say that their return is hindered by problems of identity and citizenship documentation, by lack of funds, and by the refusal of the Government of Mauritania to guarantee their security, indemnify them, and recognize their citizenship. While relations between the Governments of Senegal and Mauritania were reestablished and borders were reopened in 1992, indemnification talks between the two Governments in Paris had not yet resolved the issue of voluntary repatriation for Mauritanian refugees by the end of 1993. Because of violence and instability in the Casamance region of Senegal, approximately 18,000 Senegalese refugees remained in Guinea-Bissau and 2,000 in The Gambia at the end of 1993. Several thousand more villagers were displaced within the Casamance region prior to the July 8 cease-fire because of MFDC rebel activity, interethnic violence, and Senegalese army operations. Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government Senegalese have the constitutional right to change their government through periodic multiparty elections. Even so, the domination of Senegalese political life by the Socialist Party, which has held power since independence, has called into question the extent to which citizens have been able to exercise that right. President Abdou Diouf was declared reelected in February 1993 with 53 percent of the vote, a victory that gives him a 7-year term in office. (His previous two terms were for 5 years.) The closest presidential contender, Abdoulaye Wade, received 32 percent of the vote, and the other six candidates, collectively, received just under 10 percent. Approximately 60 percent of the 2.5 million registered voters participated in the election. Under the new Electoral Code, the secret ballot was introduced and the voting was lowered to 18 years. Despite the new Electoral Code, which had been drafted with the opposition, opposition party members alleged that the governing Socialist Party had orchestrated fraud in the preelection phase and on election day. These charges were given credibility when the new all-party National Tabulation Commission (NTC) was unable to reach consensus, and the head of NTC suddenly resigned implying she had been under pressure from the Government. Opposition parties petitioned the Constitutional Court to reject a number of votes said to have been invalidated by irregular procedures. Amidst much controversy, the Constitutional Court finally certified the results of the February 21 presidential election 3 weeks after the vote, ruling that the voting irregularities did not affect the integrity and validity of the election outcome. In the May legislative elections, the ruling party, the PS, won 84 of 120 assembly seats, followed by the PDS with 27. Four other opposition parties divided the remaining nine. Following the procedural revisions of Senegal's new Electoral Code, enacted by the National Assembly prior to the May elections, the Constitutional Court certified the May 9 legislative election results within the newly mandated period of 10 days. While there are 20 legal political parties, most with small memberships, the 1993 elections pointed to the possibility of an emerging two party system, the PS, and the PDS. Of the 29 ministers who make up the President's Cabinet, only 2 are women. There are no women heading a political party, and only 9 women deputies are represented in the 120-member National Assembly. Their underrepresentation reflects the disparity in education, as many girls are not educated beyond the primary level. It also represents, in part, cultural pressures that dictate women should assume subservient roles. Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights There are at least eight Senegalese human rights associations. All are free to criticize the Government publicly, although none has done so directly. The Government allows international human rights groups to investigate allegations concerning human rights abuses and generally responds to requests for information about allegations. However, the Government did not undertake a formal investigation after Amnesty International asked the Government to look into the May 1993 charges by Mody Sy that he was tortured after arrest (see Section l.c.). Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status The Constitution states that "men and women shall be equal in law." Officially, there is no discrimination based on race, religion, sex, or language, but de facto discrimination against women is pervasive. Women Despite constitutional provisions, women face extensive societal discrimination, especially in the rural areas where Islamic and Senegalese customs, including polygyny and Islamic rules of inheritance, are strongest and where women are confined to traditional roles. There is no legal discrimination against women in the law of inheritance. In the countryside, women perform much of the subsistence farming and childrearing and have only very limited opportunities for an education. Traditional practices, for example, make it difficult for women to acquire sufficient collateral to obtain bank credit. According to a U.N. study, only 20 percent of Senegalese women are in paid employment. Women usually marry young (the majority by age 16 in rural areas), average seven live births, and die relatively young. About 57 percent of women between the ages of 40 and 45 live in polygynous unions. Despite government encouragement, there is still much discrimination against females in educational opportunities. Overall, females receive less than one-third of the schooling received by males. In the urban areas, women are active in government, political life, and business--although few are in top positions--and the Government has taken some steps to change the laws. For example, modifications to the law on family matters, adopted by the National Assembly in 1988, reinforced women's rights to divorce, alimony, child support, and employment, although such laws are often not effectively enforced, particularly in the rural areas where the majority of women live. Women receive equal pay for equal work. Among the women's groups working for change are Women, Rights, and Development, Yewwe Yewwe, Women for Development and Enterprise in Africa, the African Federation of Women of Senegal, and the African Center for Integrated Development. There are credible reports that violence against women, usually wife beating, is common, particularly in rural areas. Police do not normally intervene in domestic disputes, and women are reluctant to go outside the family for redress. Persons convicted of rape may be sentenced for up to 10 years in prison, and more if the victim is a minor. Children The Government supports the protection of children's rights and welfare. It established in 1990 the Ministry of Women, Children, and the Family which has the responsibility for promoting children's welfare. Organizations active in support of children's rights include the Senegalese Association for Education and the Promotion of Human Rights, and the Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children. There are no laws or regulations prohibiting female genital mutilation (circumcision), which has been condemned by international experts as damaging to both physical and psychological health. Female circumcision is not practiced by Senegal's largest ethnic group, the Wolofs, but it is performed on girls belonging to other ethnic groups. According to an independent expert, the percentage of Senegalese girls who have undergone this procedure may be as high as 50 percent. Genital mutilation generally occurs at the age of 9. Infibulation, the most extreme and dangerous form of genital mutilation, is practiced only by the Toucouleur and Peulh ethnic groups. Perhaps 6 percent of Senegalese women have undergone this procedure. Among other activities, the Ministry of Women, Children, and the Family promotes programs to educate village women to the dangers of genital mutilation. People with Disabilities There is no overt discrimination against the handicapped. In practice, persons with physical disabilities are unable to participate in almost all mainstream occupations due to physical barriers and lack of equipment that would make such participation possible. There are no laws or regulations that mandate accessibility. Section 6 Worker Rights a. The Right of Association The rights of workers in the formal wage sector are protected by the proworker Labor Code of 1961. All workers have the right of association and are free to form or join unions. A minimum of seven persons, each having worked within the trade for at least 1 year, may form a trade union by submitting a list of members and a charter to the Ministry of Interior. Not all unions, however, get registered. The International Labor Organization's (ILO) Committee on Freedom of Association, in November 1993, while ruling on the case presented by the General Confederation of Democratic Workers of Senegal (CGTDS), deplored the fact that for 17 years the Ministry of Interior has not provided the CGTDS with a formal acknowledgement of the deposition of its bylaws. A union may be disbanded by the Ministry if the union's activities deviate from its charter. The Labor Code is not applied to the informal and agricultural sectors. Although unions sometimes fail to obtain initial recognition, once received, recognition is virtually never withdrawn. Even though they represent a small percentage of the working population, unions wield significant political influence because of their ability to disrupt vital sectors of the economy. The small industrial component of the total work force of 3.9 million is almost totally unionized. More than 70 percent of the labor force is engaged in agriculture. There are no unions in the agrarian sector except for the workers employed at the Senegalese Sugar Company (CSS). The CSS is the only plantation in Senegal, and it offers its employees about the same standard of living as those in industry. The National Confederation of Senegalese Workers (CNTS), the largest union organization, has close ties to the ruling PS, and its members hold a considerable number of government positions as well as 12 of the PS seats in the National Assembly. While ostensibly an independent organization, the umbrella CNTS has supported government policies. The rival to the CNTS is the National Union of Autonomous Labor Unions of Senegal (UNSAS). UNSAS is a federation of strategically important unions, such as those of electricians, telephone and telegraph workers, teachers, water technicians, hospital and railroad workers, and sugar producers. UNSAS reportedly has no specific political orientation. The smaller union organizations include the Democratic Union of Senegalese Workers, which is composed mostly of unskilled workers in the private sector, and the Coordination of Autonomous Trade Unions, composed of some teachers, urban transit workers, and two smaller organizations. The unions continue to operate under the Labor Code of 1961. A revised code, put forward in 1989, has still not come before the National Assembly. The Government has not renewed its efforts to revise the Labor Code, reportedly in an attempt to appease the unions. Some suggested revisions, for example granting more employer flexibility on terminating and laying off employees, would dilute the power of the unions. The right to strike is provided for in the Constitution and in the Labor Code. However, there are restrictions. Unions representing members of the civil service must request permission to strike 1 month in advance. Private sector unions must request permission 3 days in advance. The Government has the right to approve or disapprove a strike request. Four trade union federations--CNTS, UNSAS, and two smaller organizations--conducted a 1-day general strike on September 2. The peaceful strike protested the August 24 adoption by the National Assembly of austerity measures, including a 15-percent cut in civil service wages and a 4-percent reduction in private sector wages. A series of 3-day, less successful general strikes and demonstrations against the cuts took place in October, with sporadic acts of violence, some directed toward those transportation workers who did not participate in the strike. The September 2 strike successfully closed down most businesses and the airport. Subsequent, unauthorized strikes were relatively unsuccessful. The Government responded by first firing and then reinstating some civil service personnel who were absent from work and by using large amounts of tear gas to disperse crowds. On November 16 and November 23, the Government authorized a labor group, the National Union of Autonomous Unions (UWSAS), and one political party, the Party for Democracy and Socialism, to hold sit-ins and demonstrations. The reason for the strikes continued to be opposition to the government-mandated civil service wage cut. The Labor Code permits unions to affiliate with international bodies. CNTS is active in regional and international labor organizations and is the dominant Senegalese member of the Organization of African Trade Union Unity. The UNSAS is not affiliated with any regional or international labor organization. b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively Senegalese unions have the right by law to organize and to bargain collectively, and these rights are protected in practice. There are also legal prohibitions governing discrimination by employers against union members and organizers. Employers found guilty of antiunion discrimination are required to reinstate workers. During 1993 there were no known instances of workers being forcibly discouraged from exercising the right to organize and bargain collectively. The Ministry of Labor will intervene in disputes between labor and management when requested, and it plays a mediation and arbitration role in the private and state enterprise sectors. Senegalese labor laws apply in principle to all industrial firms, including those in the export free zone in Dakar. However, firms operating in the free zone and those eligible for benefits under the Investment Code enjoy certain exceptions to the Labor Code. Unlike other businesses in the formal sector, these firms do not need prior government authorization to dismiss employees, and they may hire workers on renewable temporary contracts for a period of up to 5 years. c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor There were no reports of forced labor, and it is prohibited by law. d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children The minimum age for employment is 16 years for apprenticeships and 18 for all other types of work. Inspectors from the Ministry of Labor closely monitor and enforce these restrictions within the formal wage sector, which includes state-owned corporations, large private enterprises, and cooperatives. On the other hand, children under 15 frequently are employed in the much larger traditional or informal sector, and minimum age and other workplace regulations are not enforced on family farms in rural areas or in small businesses. Hours of young workers are not limited compared to the regular work force. e. Acceptable Conditions of Work Legislation mandating a monthly minimum wage has been in force since independence in 1960. The actual rate is determined by the Ministers of Labor and Finance after negotiating with the unions and management councils. The minimum wage of about $0.70 (200 CFA) per hour is not adequate to support a worker and family, and workers must frequently supplement incomes through second jobs and reliance on the extended family. Within the formal economic sector, Senegalese law mandates: a standard workweek of 40 to 48 hours for most occupations, with at least one 24-hour rest period; 1 month per year of annual leave; enrollment in government systems for social security and retirement; safety standards and a variety of other measures. These regulations are incorporated into the Labor Code and are supervised by inspectors from the Ministry of Labor. Enforcement, however, appears to be uneven, especially outside the formal sector. There are no explicit legal protections for workers who file complaints about unsafe conditions. While there are regulations on the books concerning workplace safety, they are often not enforced.
[end of document]
to 1993 Human Rights Practices report home page.
Return to DOSFAN home page.
This is an official U.S. Government source for information on the WWW. Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contents.