Senegal and the United States on good terms

Senegal has today signed a defense agreement with the United States, which many see as yet another threat to the internationally isolated president of The Gambia, Yahya Jammeh. President Barack Obama has promised to help Senegal with resolving the low level Cassamance crisis during his visit to the West African nation in 2013.

Economic ties were not only strengthened during that summer’s visit but military and intelligence cooperation became a center piece of their foreign policies. Senegal has found itself at the forefront on the global war against terrorism and on high alert on a possible Al-Qaeda in the Magrib attack.

It contributed troops by Muslim nations to fight terrorist cells in the Middle East as part of an ally force headed by Saudi Arabia. Boko Haram continues to threaten the stability of neighboring nations like Nigeria, Cameroon, and Chad (especially in the Lake Chad region with cross border attacks by Al-Qaeda affiliates such as Ansar Deen in Northern Mali).

Senegal signed an intelligence sharing agreement with the United States a month after dissident Gambians left the United States and launched an attack on the Gambia’s presidential compound to oust President Yahya Jammeh. The military might and influence of the former French colony within the sub-region continues to grow, helping President Macky Sall become ECOWAS chair in the first few years of his presidency.

Senegal is one of Africa’s most stable democracies.

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Whiles most African leaders are changing constitutions to make their terms limitless, the West African nation recently voted to reduce presidential terms from two-seven year terms to two-five year terms.

This nation of 14 million people is the United States’ strongest francophone partner in Africa and received over $500 million of the Millennium Challenge Cooperation grant, which The Gambia has been excluded from due to its worsening rights record. President Jammeh has called it unfair and in a Wikileaks document said “Senegal arrested gays whiles his Government made no arrests and his threats were just for mention.” Jammeh who called LGBT people “vermins” has threatened to “slit the throat of any of them and no white man can do anything about it.”

Last week, Senegalese troops stormed some border villages destroying the marijuana farms of separatist rebels and killing some. The drugs and illicit timber from southern Senegal makes good money for the rebels in the Gambian black market.

President Yahya Jammeh is said to be supporting the separatist rebels with arms and logistics. Jammeh has not been able to get any of such cooperation from the United States, especially after he made public confidential military deals that the US was trying to negotiate with his government accusing the super power of trying to covertly overthrow his regime. 

Relations between The Gambia and Senegal are strained with a border closure coming into its third month. President Yahya Jammeh has always used the Cassamance crisis and closing the border as leverage when having to engage with Senegalese authorities. But this time, the closure came from Dakar which is now waiting on recommendations from an ECOWAS mission. Heavy Gambian military presence has been reported around the border town of Wellingara.