Peacekeeping Contributor Profile: Senegal

Amadou Moctar DIALLO, Université Lumière Lyon 2, France
Last updated January 2016

Active armed forces [1] Helicopters & fixed-wing transport Defense Budget UN Peacekeepers UN Contribution Breakdown Other Significant Deployments
World Ranking (size): 107
Army: 11,900
Navy: 950
Air: 750
+ Paramilitary (Gendarmerie): 5,000
2 Attack helicopters
8 transport helicopters
(2 Medium and 6 Light)
2014: $254m
(1.60% of GDP)
2013: $248m
(1.68% of GDP)
2012: $192m
(1.37% of GDP)
World Ranking (2016): 102
(59 women)
As of 30 Sept. 2015
Ranking: 7th
3rd largest African & African Union contributor
MINUSCA 307 (304 police, 2 troops, 1 expert)
MINUSMA 973 (297 police, 676 troops)
MINUSTAH 177 police
MONUSCO 313 (299 police, 5 troops, 9 experts)
UNAMID 1,088 (288 police, 804 troops)
UNMISS 7 (4 police, 1 troop, 2 experts)
UNOCI 763 (17 police, 738 troops, 8 experts)
Guinea-Bissau (ECOMIB): 200
Sudan (AMIS, 2005-07): 538
Mali (AFISMA, 2013): 500

Defense spending/troop: US$15,429 (compared to global average of approx. US$79,396; sub-Saharan Africa average US$13,404)[2]

Part 1: Recent Trends

Senegal has long-standing experience in participating in peacekeeping operations led by the United Nations (UN), the African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The Senegalese army first participated in a peacekeeping operation, as part of the Federation of Mali, in 1960, the same year the country gained independence from France. Then, Senegal deployed 600 men in the UN Operation in the Congo (ONUC). Since then, Senegal deployed personnel in 25  UN-led peacekeeping operations in Africa (Congo, Angola, Rwanda, Uganda, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire, Chad, Sudan and South Sudan), Americas (Haiti), Asia and the Pacific (Cambodia and Timor-Leste), Europe (Ex-Yugoslavia) and in the Middle-East (Egypt, Lebanon, Iran/Iraq, Iraq/Kuwait). The numerous peacekeeping operations deployed in Africa in the 21st century, the lack of capacity of many African countries to conduct peacekeeping, and Senegal’s new political leadership have been key factors in increasing its participation in international peacekeeping. Its most recent deployments have focused on MINUSCA (CAR), MINUSMA (Mali), MONUSCO (DRC), and UNAMID (Darfur), where President Wade was for a time a lead mediator.


Senegal is also a major provider of peacekeepers to non-UN missions, especially due to its membership of the AU and ECOWAS. It deployed contingents of 600 troops in the first Organization of African Unity (OAU)-led operations in Zaire (1978-79) as part of the Inter-African Force during Shaba II; 600 troops in Chad, in the first OAU peacekeeping operation (1981-82); and 15 observers in Rwanda (in the Group of Neutral Military Observers deployed between 1992-93). Under an AU flag, Senegal deployed a battalion of troops in AMIS (Darfur). As a member of ECOWAS, Senegal has played an important role in ECOMOG deployments in Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, and Sierra Leone. In 2013, Senegal sent 500 troops in the African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA).

Examples of Senegalese Personnel in Senior Peacekeeping Leadership Roles


Force Commander:

· MajGen Mountaga Diallo (MONUC, 2000-03)
· LtGen Babacar Gaye (MONUC, 2005-10)
· MajGen Abdoulaye Fall (UNOCI, 2004-06)
· MajGen Elhadji Mahamadou Kandji (MINURCAT, 2009-10)

Police Commissioner:
· Mamadou Gueye Faye (MONUC, 2013)Head of Mission:
· LtGen Babacar Gaye (MINUSCA, 2014-15)Deputy Head of Mission:
· Professor Abdoulaye Bathily (MINUSMA, 2013-14)
· M’Baye Babacar Cissé (ONUCI, 2013)
· Cheikh Tidiane Gaye (UNMEE, 2000-2005)

Military Adviser for Peacekeeping Operations at UN HQ:

· LtGen Babacar Gaye (2010-13)

Deputy Military adviser:

· MajGen Elhadji Mahamadou Kandji (2003-06)

The creation of “The Captain Mbaye Diagne Medal for Exceptional Courage” established by UN Security Council Resolution 2154 (8 May 2014), was named after a Senegalese peacekeeper who served with the former UN Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR). It is a powerful symbol of the efforts made by Senegalese troops in peacekeeping. The Security Council credits Captain Diagne with saving “unarmed and in the face of extreme danger hundreds of, perhaps even a thousand, Rwandans from death, during the 1994 Genocide.”

Senegal participated in the 2015 Leaders’ Summit on Peacekeeping held at the UN Headquarters in New York, on 28 September 2015. It pledged one Attack Helicopter Unit and one Transport Aircraft, and signed the Declaration issues after the Summit.

Elected as non permanent member of the UN Security Council for 2016-17, Senegal chairs the Council’s Working Group on Peacekeeping Operations for a period ending on 31 December 2016.  In addition, the country is the penholder on the Sahel and on Guinea Bissau, according to a communiqué of the Senegalese Ministry of Foreign Affairs dated 2 January 2016.

Part 2: Decision-Making Process

At the strategic level, decisions about deploying peacekeepers and military interventions are highly centralized in the hands of the President of the Republic and the Chief of joint military staff (CEMGA). The Chief of the Military Staff of the President (“Chef d’état-major particulier du président de la République”) plays an important role as the President’s top military adviser. The Minister of Defense and the Minister of Foreign Affairs are also involved in the process, but mostly at the operational level.

The Constitution of Senegal gives a prominent role to the President as “the Supreme Head of the armed forces” (article 45) and Chair of the Supreme National Defense Council and the National Security Council. Even in the National Assembly, currently the only legislative body, there is a Defense and Security Commission (one of the eleven permanent commissions) but it plays a very limited role. The President does not need the parliament’s authorization to deploy troops or police in peacekeeping operations.

Nevertheless, members of parliament have recently used different legal provisions to engage discussions with the Government on the deployment of troops abroad, including in peacekeeping. Indeed, article 85 of the Constitution and Rule 92 of National Assembly Rules of procedure gives the MPs the right to ask oral or written questions to the Prime Minister and other members of the Government who are under legal obligation to respond.

MINUSMA is a good demonstration of this trend. Indeed, on 14 January 2013, the MP Mamadou Diop Decroix (cross-bencher) asked oral question to the Prime Minister after the media announced the decision of the President to deploy troops in MINUSMA. He wanted the Head of the Government to enlighten the Parliament about the reasons, timeframe and the consequences of this deployment. Two days later, the Foreign Minister delivered a message to the National Assembly on behalf of the President justifying the deployment and responded to questions. The debate followed his briefing showed unanimous support from the MPs.

Part 3: Rationales for Contributing

Political Rationales: Senegal’s participation in peacekeeping operations is deeply rooted in the view that the country should help maintain international peace and security. Under colonization, many Senegalese participated in both World Wars under the French flag, many serving in the French army. African troops deployed in both wars were named “Tirailleurs Sénégalais.” In domestic political rhetoric, this participation is proudly portrayed as a heroic symbol and legacy of Senegal’s contribution to the creation of a free world.

Promoting peace and political stability is the first pillar of Senegalese foreign policy. Under different leaders, Senegal has expressed its will to raise its profile on the world stage, particularly in Africa, where it competes for regional leadership. Therefore participating in peacekeeping operations, not only in Africa but worldwide, is seen as a key mechanism to strengthen Senegal’s role in sub-regional, regional and international organizations as well as to gain respect and recognition from major bilateral partners. Senegal gained an elected seat on the UN Security Council three times (1968-69, 1988-89, 2016-17) and its participation in the maintenance of international peace and security through its peacekeepers has been a key argument put forward in its campaigns.

Economic Rationales: Even if financial interests are not at the forefront of Senegal’s participation in peacekeeping, the country nevertheless has some financial profit from its participation. Reimbursements received from the UN have a significant economic impact on the country and more importantly on the peacekeepers. For instance, according to IISS Military Balance 2015 data, defense spending per troop in Senegal is US$537 per month while the current UN reimbursement is $1,332 per soldier, per month). Soldiers who return from peacekeeping missions have a visible living standard higher than their fellows, being able to keep all of the UN’s reimbursement. Most of them subsequently make economic investments or display signs of wealth, such as with a new house and car, paying tickets for their parents to accomplish pilgrimage to Mecca, etc.

Security Rationales: Senegal has a relatively peaceful domestic environment despite the low-level conflict in the southern part of the country, Casamance. Some of the country’s armed forces are deployed in this region. But it is part of a sub-region, West Africa, where most of the countries have experienced violent political crisis and civil wars. With many porous borders and transnational consequences of these conflicts, participating in peacekeeping is seen as both an expression of solidarity but also a mechanism to contain conflict and avoid spillover. The deployment of 940 peacekeepers to MINUSMA reflects this perspective. Addressing the National Assembly, on behalf of the President, the Minister of Foreign affairs pointed out: By helping Mali to restore its own territorial integrity, Senegal prevents its borders from threats posed by terrorist groups; it defends its own peace and security, and protects its population.

Institutional Rationales: Contrary to many African armies, Senegalese troops have never interfered in domestic political affairs. Therefore, participating in peacekeeping is a way to keep the army busy with one of its mandated tasks. Participation is also a way to increase the professionalism and the performance of the armed forces who are credited by the US Government as being “well-trained and disciplined.” As one of the biggest contributors of UN peacekeepers, Senegal has benefited from capacity-building programs from major powers, mainly France (RECAMP) and the United States (ACOTA, APRRP, etc.). For instance, the Senegalese army received through the ACOTA program trainings and equipment valued at over $15 million for its deployment in MINUSMA.

Normative Rationales: In the Preamble of the Constitution of Senegal, “The sovereign people of Senegal … affirm … their determination to fight for peace and fraternity together with all the peoples of the world.” This constitutional spirit leads the country to deploy peacekeepers to help maintain international peace and security.

Over the years, Senegal has developed a real expertise in peacekeeping operations, which has become a part of its foreign policy and Defense strategy. The rationales put forward by the President of the Republic and the Government, mainly the Minister of foreign affairs mostly depend on the venue of the deployment as well as the national and international process that lead to the deployment. The need to express solidarity with affected countries and the commitment to maintain international peace and security, especially in Africa, have been constantly highlighted to justify the decision to deploy peacekeepers.

Part 4: Barriers to Contributing

Alternative institutional preferences for crisis management: Even if Senegal is enthusiastic about UN-led peacekeeping operations, it also advocates for regional organization to conduct peace enforcement as well as preventive measures. Senegal has been one of the most active troop contributors to ECOWAS and AU-led missions. The country has also deployed troops under ad-hoc coalitions (in 1991, 500 troops were sent to Operation Desert Storm during the Gulf War, and in 2015, 2,100 troops were deployed in the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen) and undertaken unilateral interventions to help neighboring countries (in 1981, 2,700 Senegalese troops deployed in Gambia to help President Jawara prevent a coup, and in 1998, 2,300 soldiers were deployed in Guinea-Bissau at the request of President Vieira for the same reason).

Alternative political or strategic priorities: In the past, Senegal has contributed to peacekeeping operations all around the world. Recently, however, its focus has been on missions deployed in Africa and in Haiti, which is referred to as part of Africa in domestic political discourse. The increasing number of peacekeeping operations in Africa and the lack of capacity among many African countries produced a high demand for peacekeepers. As part of the spirit of African solidarity and the “African solutions to African problems” paradigm, Senegal has obliged. The pressing demand to ensure the security and safety of Senegalese people living in the south (Casamance) as well as concern to protect Senegal’s territorial integrity has limited its ability to send troops abroad. This was mentioned by the President Macky Sall in a statement in July 2012.

Financial costs: While participating in peacekeeping operations could be financially rewarding, delays in reimbursements for troop and equipment costs are seen as an obstacle that affects the capacity and/or the motivation to participate. This argument has been regularly raised by members of the Non-Aligned Movement, including Senegal that “urged respect for the timely payment of troop contributors”, during the General debate of the 2015 C-34 Substantive session.

Difficult domestic politics: In general, public opinion is not concerned by international affairs, but the recent crisis in Mali, a neighboring country, and in Yemen have raised the relevance of sending troops abroad. Both in Mali and Yemen, many Senegalese expressed opposition about the deployment of troops. In Mali for instance, critics argued that a deployment could lead Senegal to be a target for terrorist and extremist groups, operating in Northern Mali. There were also criticisms of the deployment to Yemen related to the intervention’s legality and distance from Senegal.

In July 2012, after three months in office, the new elected President Macky Sall stated: “More than 800 of our men are in Cote d’Ivoire. We are in Guinea-Bissau. We are in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We are in Sudan. We will be in Mali. And we cannot do more since we also have internal security requirements and our military cannot be everywhere.” This stance was revised due to the conflict’s escalation and external pressure. Senegal finally decided to send 500 troops, arguing that threats that affect Mali have direct impact on Senegal.

The death of Senegalese peacekeepers also raises concerns in domestic politics. In 2007, President Wade threatened to withdraw troops from AMIS (Darfur) after the death of several AU peacekeepers, including Senegalese, if an investigation reveals that the troops lacked appropriate equipment to defend themselves.

Resistance in the military: There is no apparent resistance among military or police forces to deploying as peacekeepers. Many Senegalese uniformed personnel are well-known for their discipline and enthusiasm for peacekeeping, and deployments attract many candidates. Participating in peace operations is not only financially rewarding, but also helps to advance careers in terms of rank and prestige in both the army and police. Senegalese soldiers have also assumed a number of important leadership roles in UN peacekeeping (see table).

Part 5: Current Challenges and Issues

Participating in peacekeeping operations is an important component of Senegal’s foreign policy and defense strategy. It contributes to the maintenance of international peace and security, represents an expression of solidarity with affected countries, helps protect Senegal’s national security, and reinforces the capacity and performance of its troops. The fact that the decision to deploy troops aboard is more centralized and technical makes Senegal’s participation in peacekeeping operations easier. Nevertheless, the recent crisis in neighboring Mali and the fear of becoming a target of terrorist groups has raised public attention about peacekeeping. The areas of deployment, the probability of fatalities, the evolution of national security concerns in the southern part of the country (Casamance), and support for deployment from external partners are the key factors that could significantly influence Senegal’s future participation in peacekeeping.

During peacekeeping discussions at the UN, Senegal has consistently advocated for strengthening cooperation among the Security Council, the Secretariat, and troop and police contributors, as well as with regional organizations. It has also called for supporting African capacity and African-led peace operations. Senegal has recently integrated gender perspectives in its operations by encouraging more women to participate in peacekeeping. Nevertheless, women’s participation remains a challenge. Women have only been allowed to join the army since 2008. In April 2010 none of the 1,605 Senegalese troops deployed in UN peacekeeping operations were women. Since then, Senegal has incorporated women among its peacekeepers. Currently, there are 53 females among the 3,613 uniformed personal deployed in UN peacekeeping as of 31 July 2015 (1.46%). At the UN General Assembly 4th Committee meeting held on 30 October 2014, Senegal recognized the important role of women in peacekeeping operations and emphasized that their participation should be increased at all levels.

Part 6: Key Champions and Opponents

The deployment of troops for peacekeeping is mainly managed in a discrete and technical way at the highest level, in particular within the military establishment and the Office of the President of the Republic. Peacekeeping enjoys positive support from numerous senior officials in the army and police. Most of them have direct experience in peacekeeping, some at the highest level. However, there is no real public debate on the subject. The exception to this rule has been the recent crisis in Mali that led to the deployment of AFISMA then MINUSMA. This generated a debate on the relevance of Senegal’s participation. The Government’s initial decision not to deploy troops in AFISMA because Senegalese forces were tied up on “all fronts” and the country had difficulty meeting “its own needs”, was strongly criticized by the main opposition party, the PDS (Parti démocratique sénégalais), which ruled the country between 2000-12. The PDS called instead for “solidarity and a spontaneous and unequivocal commitment” to help Mali.

While Senegal’s participation in UN-led peacekeeping operations enjoys broad support, its participation in ad-hoc coalitions, such as the 2015 Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen, and its unilateral operations in Guinea-Bissau in 1998, raise more concerns among political leaders and in public opinion.
Part 7: Capabilities and Caveats
Senegal has very limited specialized capabilities to be deployed in peacekeeping operations. The logistical aspects of Army deployments are mainly supported or provided by external donors, in particular the US and France. Nevertheless, the army has resources that could be deployed in activities aimed at building trust and confidence between troops and communities. Indeed, Senegal has developed a long-tradition of civil-military relations called “Armée-Nation”, through which the armed forces engage in public relations and outreach activities and most importantly in community development actions. This concept of “Armée-Nations” has significantly contributed in building trustful relations between the army and Senegalese population.

Senegal has also been developing a gender policy in the army and, more effectively, in the police. The appointment of Divisional Commissioner Anna Sémou Faye as Head of the national police force in July 2013, the first woman to hold this position, is a reflection of this trend. Senegal has highly qualified women police officers who have been allowed to participate in peacekeeping operations since 1999. Commissioner Co­dou Camara serving in MINUSTAH is a good example of such participation. She received the 2013 International Female Police Peacekeeper Award, the first time a French-speaking peacekeeper and an African had won.

Senegal also has a high potential of linguistic skills among its army and police. Fluent in French, the official language, many officers – in particular senior officials – are at least bilingual –most often English-French. The outstanding military cooperation with the US helps to improve the Senegalese army’s abilities to serve in English-speaking environments.

The operationalization of the African Standby Force (ASF) is a perceptible caveat that might impact Senegal’s capacity to contribute to UN peacekeeping operations. Indeed, Senegal is committed to provide a significant number of troops to the 6,500-strong ECOWAS Standby Force (ESF). Senegal has also volunteered to be part of the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises (ACIRC).

Part 8: Further Reading

Niagalé Bagayoko-Penone, “Senegal” in Bryden Alan & N’Diaye Boubacar (eds.), Security Sector Governance in Francophone West Africa: Realities and opportunities (Zurich: Lit Verlag, 2011), pp.205-227.

Carlota Ahrens Teixeira,“Senegal: a model of democracy, peace and stability”, World Review, June 2015.

Dietzman, Roy A., “Forty-Two Years of Peacekeeping: A Review of Senegalese Participation in Peacekeeping Missions”, Master Thesis, Air Force Institute of Technology, Ohio, 2003.

Senegal Foreign Policy and Government Guide, Volume 1, Strategic Information and Developments (Washington DC, International Business Publications, 2011).


[1] Unless otherwise stated, data is drawn from IISS, The Military Balance 2015 (London: IISS/ Routledge, 2015).

[2] Armed Forces spending is a country’s annual total defense budget (in US dollars) divided by the total number of active armed forces. Using figures from IISS, The Military Balance 2015.

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