The decision by Senegal’s President Macky Sall to send 2,100 Senegalese soldiers to take part in Saudi Arabia-led operation in Yemen has raised a political storm in the country since its announcement on Monday last week.
The operation was launched in March this year by Saudi Arabia to return Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi to power after being overthrown by Houthi rebels.
While announcing the decision, Senegal’s Foreign Minister Mankeur Ndiaye explained that the decision was taken by the president “to respond to a request by Saudi Arabia.”
The decision has been criticized by many Senegalese political actors as well as civil society actors.
“It is unfortunate that a country that respects rule of law and democracy like Senegal can be involved in a military intervention whose international legitimacy is in question,” said Aboubacry Mbodj, the secretary general of the African Assembly for the Defense of Human Rights (RADDHO).
“No UN Security Council resolution was passed authorizing the intervention in Yemen by Saudi Arabia and its allies,” Mbodj noted.
The spokesman for the main opposition party, Democratic Party of Senegal, Babacar Gaye, said “the reasons given by the government that the deployment was aimed at protecting Medina and Mecca were baseless because the geostrategic role of the Middle East was more complex than protection of Islamic religious sites.”
“In Yemen there’s a civil war with the minority Shiite who have occupied a Yemeni territory for thousands of years,” Gaye argued, before demanding to know “what was Senegal’s interest in a war that only involves Saudi Arabia and Iran but not the entire Muslim world?”
Speaking recently in Senegal’s central town of Kaolack, the country’s ex-minister for armed forces and the current leader of Senegal Centrists Union Abdoulaye Balde questioned why “Senegal was getting involved in a war that was not conventional yet it had other issues like terrorism to deal with?”
He added that Senegal was the only non-Arab League member country that was taking part in the war.
However, other political parties have approved President Sall’s decision.
In a statement, the Socialist Party hailed the president’s decision to send troops to Saudi Arabia.
“Our country should demonstrate its solidarity and support for a friendly nation whose stability and security are threatened by the situation in Yemen,” the party said in a statement.
The secretary general of the National Democratic Rally of Senegal Mame Mactar Gueye equally expressed his “total support for the president’s decision.”
Former UN peacekeeper Major Khadim Diop said “Saudi Arabia’s request should be considered as an acknowledgement of the expertise of Senegalese armed forces who, for a number of years, have demonstrated their professionalism in different areas of operation under the United Nations.”
“The death of soldiers is part of life in the army, and it is therefore not a valid argument against this intervention,” he said. Enditem