Koter Briefs Model African Union Group on Senegal

Annie McDonough, Maroon-News Staff

The Africana and Latin American Studies Program (ALST) hosted a brown bag on January 29, to brief students attending the Model African Union Conference on events in Senegal. The conference will take place from February 19 to 22 in Washington D.C. Assistant Professor of Political Science Dominika Koter lectured to a group of about 30 students and faculty on Senegal’s current affairs and foreign policy. Senegal is one of the four African countries that Colgate students will represent at the conference this month.

The students taking part in Model AU are all enrolled in a half-credit course that covers the history and current affairs of the African Union in preparation for the model national conference each year. Colgate students will represent delegations from Angola, Djibouti and the Seychelles, in addition to Senegal, at this year’s conference. The trip to D.C. will include briefings from representatives at each country’s embassy. Professor of Anthropology and ALST Mary Moran teaches the course to prepare Colgate’s delegation and will lead the group at the conference.

“In my experience as a professor for over 30 years, Model African Union is a highly effective way of learning about relations among and between the 54 nation states on the African continent,” Moran said.

Koter’s lecture focused on Senegal’s relations with the other nations in West Africa, as well as the country’s status as a well-developed and relatively stable nation.

“Senegal, in the post-colonial period, always saw itself as the cultural center of West Africa,” Koter said. “Senegalese see themselves as the important West Africans.”

Koter spoke on Senegal’s relations with its neighboring nations, including Mauritania, Mali, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau and the Gambia.

“I would make the case that Senegal, in many ways, finds itself in the presence of difficult neighbors,” Koter said, referring to the particularly fraught relationship between Senegal and Mauritania.

One of Africa’s largest issues this past year was the Ebola outbreak. West Africa was central to the issue, with Guinea being one of the main countries affected. The Model African Union’s Executive Council receives a crisis to center the debates on, and this year’s will be on Ebola.

“Even though it’s dying down, I think Senegal is still worried about the spread of Ebola,” Koter said.

Koter said that Senegal’s capital of Dakar is central to many international organizations and aid organizations for the region, and, in the face of difficult neighbors, the nation also plays a significant role as a diplomatic mediator.

“Given that Dakar is an important hub in the international community, there is still a concern to prevent the spread of Ebola,” Koter said.

While Professor Moran said her class is focused on teaching the students the inner workings and history of the African Union, guest lecturers like Koter are able to offer information on nations of their own expertise.

“Professor Koter’s briefing gave the Senegal delegation insights into Senegalese national identity and pride, the complexities of the geographic neighborhood Senegal occupies and the impact of domestic politics on their foreign policy,” Moran said. “She did a fantastic job.”

Thursday’s brown bag is the first of four that will occur before the conference to brief the group, and any others interested, on the current affairs of each country Colgate will represent during the Model AU Conference. 

The next talk, scheduled on Thursday, February 5, will cover Djibouti and the Seychelles feature briefings from Moran and will feature Associate Professor of History and ALST Tsega Etefa.