Safety Security in Senegal
Pick pocketing and street crime are risks in common parts of Dakar, particularly around Place de l’Indépendence, the central area of the Plateau and the Western Corniche as well as Gorée Island. This type of crime is more common in the run-up to religious festivals, and can increase early in the month after salaries are paid. There has also been an increase in crime in the context of COVID-19. Recent examples of street crime have also included attackers grabbing bags whilst driving scooters or motorbikes. You should be vigilant and take sensible precautions: e.g. avoid walking alone in the evening and after dark, be alert if using a mobile phone in public and avoid carrying valuables and bags in public.
If you’re expecting someone to collect you at the airport, make sure they properly identify themselves before you set off.
Home robberies and armed robberies are becoming more frequent. Assaults usually take place early in the morning and after dusk.
Be cautious when changing cash given the risk of false money circulating.
British nationals are increasingly being targeted by scam artists operating in West Africa. Scams come in many forms (romance and friendship, business ventures, work and employment opportunities) and can pose a great financial risk to victims. You should be cautious about requests for funds, a job offer, a business venture or a face-to-face meeting from someone you have been in correspondence with over the internet who lives in West Africa. This includes requests from people who claim to be victims of various Western African conflicts (notably refugees from Sierra Leone) or relatives of present or former political leaders.
President Macky Sall was re-elected for a second term in February 2019.
Strikes by teachers’ unions and student bodies, and demonstrations about political issues and the cost of living, are a relatively frequent occurrence, particularly in Dakar but also other cities.
These are normally peaceful, but can sometimes turn violent. You should exercise caution and avoid areas where demonstrations and large gatherings are taking place, monitor the local media for information about forthcoming protests, and follow the instructions of local authorities.
The Senegal-Gambia border is now open; Senegal’s other land borders remain closed.
The Casamance region of south-western Senegal (between the southern border of Gambia and the northern border of Guinea-Bissau) has suffered for decades from low intensity separatist violence, largely directed at Senegalese security forces.
The security situation has improved significantly since 2012. The main faction of the separatist MFDC (Movement of the Democratic Forces of Casamance) declared a ceasefire in 2014, and political discussions with the government are ongoing. Armed separatist groups are, however, still present in Casamance, and the region continues to suffer from banditry. On 7 January 2018, 13 Senegalese nationals were killed, and a further seven injured in an attack by gunmen in Ziguinchor, Casamance region in the south of Senegal. There are occasionally violent incidents, including armed attacks on travellers, businesses or villages.
There are sometimes military operations in the region. As of June 2020, military operations are underway in Casamance, so there is a risk of heightened tension and armed confrontation in this area.
Land mines remain a hazard in certain areas of the Casamance, and have caused several hundred deaths since 1990. On 15 June 2020, a military vehicle hit an anti-tank mine, killing three Senegalese soldiers. This came two days after another military vehicle hit a landmine. There is a lower level of risk in the main tourist areas of the Casamance.
De-mining operations are ongoing. Stick to paved roads where possible.
You should be vigilant when travelling in the Casamance region and monitor the local security situation before travelling. Where possible you should avoid travelling at night, stick to main roads and travel in a convoy when you can. There is a lower level of risk in the main tourist areas of the Casamance.
You can drive in Senegal with a valid UK driving licence for up to 6 months, or on a valid International Driving Permit. If you’re staying longer or living in Senegal, you’ll need to get a Senegalese driving licence.
While some main roads are of good quality, other roads can be poor especially during the rainy season from June to September. Torrential rains can cause floods and landslides. Monitor local weather reports and expect difficulties when travelling during the rainy season.
Driving standards are unpredictable. Some taxis and public mini-buses (‘car rapide’) are not roadworthy by UK standards.
Traffic congestion also increases throughout Senegal in the run up to and during religious festivals. You should take particular care and attention to avoid accidents. Driving after dark is more dangerous because of poor street and vehicle lighting. If you do have an accident you must contact the police and wait for them to arrive at the scene. In more remote areas you may need to go directly to the nearest police station in order to report the incident.