Security Concerns for West Africa in General & Senegal in Particular!
Replies: 15 - Last Post: Mar 22, 2012 6:08 AM Last Post By: taharqa
Jan 23, 2012 12:36 AM
Security Concerns for West Africa in General & Senegal in Particular!Hello again and Greetings from Senegal!
It's as safe now in Senegal (and Casamance) as it ever was as long as you stay away from obvious hot spots, political rallies and/or protests.
I originally did a post this summer on another online travel forum when there were protests about power shortages (which we don't have anymore) and now, here we go again.
We've got another travel advisory flagged for Senegal (because of the elections), in big red letters, a 'Travel Alert' - Safety Concerns and you have raised an important issue to many people that have never been to West Africa and therefore pay a lot of attention to these types of warnings. I wish to put this issue into perspective however.
Having said that, let me state for the record that I am an America woman, single parent of 3 young American adults that spent 12 years of their lives here in Senegal, with me. 2 are back in the US and I have one 18 yr old still in school, here in Dakar.
I moved here in 1999 BECAUSE it is such a peaceful and tranquil country.
Most people have never heard of Senegal because there's not been any wars, famine, epidemics (HIV/AIDS rate is less that 0.7%!), capital punishment, child pornography rings, slavery or anything else that would normally get a country in the news.
The Senegalese people are guilty only of exercising their civil rights - the freedom to protest against their government and every time they do, Senegal gets slapped with a travel advisory by western embassies, namely the US and Canada and then everyone else follows suit.
HOWEVER, and this is really the crux of the matter, in light of all the 'Occupy' wherever protests going on in the US and other places - why aren't there travel warnings to Washington, DC? New York? Greece? The Italian people are always having a protest about something and so is France but there isn't any (serious) travel warnings about those countries.
Did you ever wonder why?
To make another point, the 10 cities with the highest murder rates in America are (and I just googled it and you can do your own research, the results may change but the point is the same):
St Petersburg, FL
Los Angeles, CA
As I said previously, I'm American and my home state is Florida. If you do a google search for a list of the top ten cities with the highest murder rates like I just did, you will find that Florida has 5 of the top ten per capita , (and to me, that's a 'security concern' ). Has anyone ever seen a 'Travel Advisory' to the state where Disneyland is located? (Number 4!) Atlanta, GA, Dallas, TX and Birmingham, AL are right next door and throw in Tennessee to the mix then it becomes 9 of the top 10 are in the south. That's sad.
If you look for the top ten LOWEST murder rates, Senegal comes in 2nd from the bottom. Iceland has the lowest murder rate, followed by a bunch of West African countries (6 all together out of 10) that ALWAYS get travel warnings issued against them!
This is where I got the info above from:
And again, using online states going from the bottom, being Iceland to #10, Oman:
# BURKINO FASO
- Saudi Arabia
Think about that. All these places (I put in caps for emphasis) are West African and have travel advisories against them. In some cases, yes a few people, adventure travelers in remote places and ngo people not following their security guidelines have died in some type of random violence in a year. Count them all up for 2011 and it's less than the body count over New Years in the US. Where I come from, a few people are murdered every weekend and random violence... let's not even go there! At least once a month someone goes 'postal' and shoots several people at once.
What's the difference but you're worried about safety over here?
Just because you have a visa to travel doesn't mean it's a safety shield from destiny or plain bad luck. Adventure travelers, people who meet a stranger, call him a friend and then go off in to remote locations with no plans, no local contacts, nothing, truly expect that nothing should happen to them BUT WHAT'S SURPRISING, is that nothing usually does.
Try doing this in your home country and see what happens to you. Africans are much more forgiving of western mentalities for 'thrill seeking' and adventure travel and put up with it every day.
Senegal is number 2 in the world with the fewest murders and Orlando (Disneyland) is the 3rd highest in America. Those crime rates are never reported on CNN or BBC or even Aljazeera are they?
What's wrong with this picture?
Don't change your travel plans folks, stay away from political rallies and exercise the same judgment here that you would if you were at home in a large city and you'll be fine.
The places we come from in the western modern world are way more violent than Senegal or any other '3rd world country' in West Africa will ever be!
Feel free to private message me if you have any other questions or concerns. Also, I suggest staying in a guesthouse or bed & breakfast type place rather than major hotels to reduce the amount of time you're going back and forth to restaurants by taxi.
Jan 23, 2012 4:13 AM
What frustrates me with peoples views of West Africa is that most are so unbalanced. Tourists will happily flock to Kenya where there have been suicide bombings, kidnappings, and political violence. Tourists will flock to Rwanda where there was one of the biggest genocides in recent years. Yet when it comes to countries in West Africa, the continual negative images of the region portrayed in films like Blood Diamond prevail in peoples minds. The mainstream media only focus upon negtaive news from the region (coup in Guinea Bissau, child slavery in Cote Divoire, fuel protests in Nigeria).....I really can't think of a story on West Africa in the mainstream media that focussed upon any of the positive aspects of the region.
Yes, parts of Mali/Niger/Mauritania are having issues in dealing with militants, but that doesn't make Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Ghana unsafe to visit. The whole region tends to get tarnished with the same brush, which is very unfair.
Lets hope Senegals election are peaceful and fair.
Jan 23, 2012 4:33 AM
2I agree with the gist of all this. I've posted at some length on my First-Time Africa blog about security issues. I think the crucial point is how many travellers get in trouble (okay, die) in each country in any year. My figures are for British passport-holders, since it was the British FCO (equivalent to US State Department) who provided me with the raw data.
Jan 23, 2012 10:42 AM
Jan 23, 2012 1:22 PM
Jan 25, 2012 2:24 AM
5Soupandsandwich, I have disagreed with you on another post (re: L'Institute Francais), but you are right on point with this post and I thank you for posting this information.
I am also an American woman who lives in Senegal and has lived in NYC for nearly 20 years. I am amazed that here in Dakar, I don't see (as I saw in NYC on a daily bases): brawls, children violently fist fighting after school (I've never scene this and I live by 2 schools) and the sound of guns popping off. I absolutely love this country and feel completely safe; my husband is Senegalese so often, just saying my last name to a taxi driver or anyone who I engage in conversation, I have an instant friend. It is amazing how the US sees other countries as a major threat for violence, yet there is no greater violence than the 'home grown' violence, increasing racism and bigotry there.
Thank you again for posting this.
Jan 25, 2012 1:09 PM
Jan 27, 2012 2:04 PM
Jan 28, 2012 6:06 AM
8I also agree. I've lived in Dakar almost 5 years and never had any serious difficulty. Dakar is a piece of cake, as is most of the rest of West Africa.
Jan 28, 2012 11:09 AM
9Unfortunately the news of today is focussing on burning tires in Dakar and Thies but I am flying into Dakar in a few days and I totally trust the advice of soupandsandwich because I have had many conversations with soup and soup is very wise. I also hope that one can stand on the edge of any demonstrations and take some pictures? Perhaps not. We shall see what happens when Yousoof collects all his signatures and they are all legible.
Jan 29, 2012 12:31 AM
10If you obviously look like a foreigner, then I would not recommend standing close to a demonstration to take pictures. A few weeks ago someone I know (who is white and therefore is noticeable) went to close to a demonstration and they threw rocks at him.....
I would also say that the news has been a bit exaggerated in the western press. I've driven around Dakar as normal and as yet I have not seen a thing.
Jan 29, 2012 1:07 AM
11Ok Lonefwards.... you're gonna get mad at me but here goes. This is what you just said:
'I also hope that one can stand on the edge of any demonstrations and take some pictures?'
Really? and then what? post it on youtube and say 10 people were killed and destroy what little bit of tourism Senegal does get now? People do this all the time to make their story sound more exciting. 3 people were supposedly killed on the VDN last month. Totally untrue but the words that are put on the internet never go away. Every page in the Senegal section here on Lonely Planet has at least one post titled 'Is Casamance Dangerous?' like there's a mass murder there every week when there's more crime where these posters come from than there will EVER BE in Casamance!
This is the stuff that drives me crazy and why I get upset when people care so much about what happens to tourists (like they should be immune to everything) but NEVER look at the fact that tourists sometimes put themselves in dangerous situations because they want 'adventure.' Then when something happens to them because they get it, the entire country is put on a travel advisory, tourism shuts down and innocent people who live there lose their livelihoods.
For example take what happened in Ethiopia not too long ago, Those people paid a lot of money to guides they don't know, to go out in remote desert areas with nomadic Arabs carrying weapons, Al Quaeda warnings out the ying yang (even local Ethiopian and Eritreans don't go to these places!) and they KNEW FULL WELL that the area they wanted to go in was known for being a bad place for bandits because, African people, just like everyone else in the world will say, 'I wouldn't go out there if I were you. It's not safe' and I'm sure the guides explained that it was dangerous but they wanted 'adventure' and they probably paid double!
Now their country (Germany was it?) has 3 of their citizens dead, they've got to have a ransom paid or an extraction team flown out to get them, it's going to cost millions of dollars and it's all over the news, tourism is shut down and the innocent people that live and work in that region, that never went that far into the desert in their lives themselves, are affected because some western tourists with money wanted 'adventure travel.' And I guarantee you, when they are rescued and all over CNN and BBC they will say they didn't know it was dangerous. BS. Then they'll right a book and get a movie deal! haha!
lonrefwards... do us all a favor and stay off the streets at night, don't go near political rallies and mind your business, just like you would in your own country if there were problems. Don't take your common sense out of your brain just because you bought a visa to come to Senegal - it's not going to protect you if a rock comes whizzing at you and hits you in the head! Senegal will get upgraded with a 'traveler alert' that will totally shut down the little bit of tourism we're getting now. There's a huge red 'travel advisory' running all over tripadvisor right now as it is, based on what could possibly happen not on what has actually transpired and as I said in the previous post about Disneyland in Orlando and the crime there (and never a travel advisory to be seen!) - what a double standard.
We all know why there will never be travel advisories in major US cities with high crime rates, but I ask you, don't add fuel to the fire here in Senegal.
If you want excitement go to the club. The best clubs and restaurants aren't downtown anyway so there's no reason to be there at night unless you're in one of those expensive hotels - then they are going to make you stay inside anyway, and rightly so.
Jan 30, 2012 8:00 AM
12Thank you soup for your good advice, and I will certainly follow it. But let me say that I would NEVER publish photos. I only send a travelogue to my family and my friends in my club, the club of thirty countries or more of travel. Believe me that nothing ever surprises them and believe me that our club loves politics. I agree it is very important to ENCOURAGE travel in Africa, and one message everyone should receive is that sometimes the people demonstrate for very good reason, no? And I will go to the club, thanks.
by the way anyone who rents a 4 by 4 in Algeria or Mali or Somalia and does not take two regiments of soldiers with them might as well take a sea kayak out from Lamu, the view is better.
Feb 21, 2012 1:46 AM
13Soupandsandwich, thank you for posting! This is making it ever more excited to visit Senegal in April. Can't wait! I wish my Mom would read your post...and stop asking me WHY WHY WHY? ;D
Though I'm old enough to have teenage kids...I chose to be an "engineer" with the souls of kids in my work place. I'm hoping to see the eyes of kids in Africa...how to inspire them perhaps...in Science.
David & Richard have given valuable links! Thanks guys!
Mar 22, 2012 1:27 AM
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