Senegal, which is situated in the westernmost region of Africa, is surrounded by Mauritania, Mali, Guinea, and Guinea-Bissau. Senegal has a population of 16.7 million people, 0.3% of whom (or a quarter) reside in the Dakar region. Senegal has experienced the repercussions of regional and sub-regional crises that have left behind poverty, disease, drought, refugees and displaced people since gaining independence on 4th April, 1960.
The country’s stability is particularly undermined by the insurgency in the Cassamance region. Cassamance, located further South of the country, in the South of The Gambia is plagued by a 40-year old insurgency. The insurgency is sustained by a pervasive history of marginalization and underdevelopment leaving behind a distrustful relationship between security forces, local population and the rebel forces. Cassamance remains a major security concern for the country. Regional instability poses risks to the country and economy, particularly in the south-east of the country, where armed groups operate near the goldfields, while the Islamist threat spreads from neighboring Mali. Despite being in a region where terrorism is a serious threat, Senegal has not officially recorded a single terrorist attack. However, for two years the country has experienced sporadic security incidents along its south-eastern border with Mali. The Kédougou and Tambacounda regions, which border Mali’s Kayes region, have come under increasing security pressure.
In Mali, attacks by violent extremist groups – which were initially confined to the north and centre – have gradually spread, including westwards towards Senegal. Senegalese officials have put security measures in place. But the risk to Senegal goes beyond possible attacks, it also involves extremists’ potential use of the country as a source or transit point for financing, procurement and recruitment. Recent joint Institute for Security Studies’ and Centre des Hautes Etudes de Défense et de Sécurité research on the risk of violent extremism spreading to Senegal shows vulnerabilities in the Kédougou and Tambacounda regions that could feed into extremists’ expansion strategies.