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Country Profile : Senegal

Country profile: Senegal

Map of Senegal

Senegal has been held up as one of Africa's model democracies. It has an established multi-party system and a tradition of civilian rule.

Although poverty is widespread and unemployment is high, the country has one of the region's more stable economies.

For the Senegalese, political participation and peaceful leadership changes are not new. Even as a colony Senegal had representatives in the French parliament. And the promoter of African culture, Leopold Senghor, who became president at independence in 1960, voluntarily handed over power to Abdou Diouf in 1980.

The 40-year rule of Senegal's Socialist Party came to a peaceful end in elections in 2000, which were hailed as a rare democratic power transfer on a continent plagued by coups, conflict and election fraud.


Senegal is on the western-most part of the bulge of Africa and includes desert in the north and a moist, tropical south.

Slaves, ivory and gold were exported from the coast during the 17th and 18th centuries and now the economy is based mainly on agriculture. The money sent home by Senegalese living abroad is a key source of revenue.

A long-running, low-level separatist war in the southern Casamance region has claimed hundreds of lives. The conflict broke out over claims by the region's people that they were being marginalised by the Wolof, Senegal's main ethnic group.

The government and rebels signed a peace pact at the end of 2004, raising hopes for reconciliation.

On the world stage, Senegal has sent peacekeeping troops to DR Congo, Liberia and Kosovo.

At a glance

Beach scene in Dakar
  • Politics: Outgoing President Abdoulaye Wade came to power in 2000 and conceded defeat after the March 2012 run-off vote
  • Economy: Agriculture drives the economy; tourism is a source of foreign exchange
  • International: Senegal has mediated between Sudan and Chad over Darfur tensions; many African illegal migrants use Senegal as a departure point for Europe
  • Security: Despite a peace deal, a low-level separatist rebellion simmers in Casamance, in the south



Senegalese independence monument Controversial colossus: The pet project of President Wade has provoked fierce opposition
  • Full name: Republic of Senegal
  • Population: 12.8 million (UN, 2011)
  • Capital: Dakar
  • Area: 196,722 sq km (75,955 sq miles)
  • Major language: French (official), Wolof
  • Major religion: Islam
  • Life expectancy: 59 years (men), 61 years (women) (UN)
  • Monetary unit: 1 CFA (Communaute Financiere Africaine) franc = 100 centimes
  • Main exports: Fish, peanuts, petroleum products, phosphates, cotton
  • GNI per capita: US $1,090 (World Bank, 2010)
  • Internet domain: .sn
  • International dialling code: +221


Macky Sall Mr Sall served as prime minister between 2004 and 2007 under his predecessor, Abdoulaye Wade

President: Macky Sall

Macky Sall won presidential elections in March 2012, replacing President Abdoulaye Wade, who controversially ran for a third term in office.

A former close associate of his predecessor, Mr Sall broke away in 2008 to form his own opposition party. He challenged Mr Wade for the presidency in March 2012, beating him in the second round after winning the support of other opposition parties.

A geological engineer born in 1961, Mr Sall served as prime minister then speaker of parliament under President Wade, until they came into conflict over the political role of Mr Wade's son Karim. President Wade forced Mr Sall out of the Democratic Party and his post as speaker.

Mr Sall returned to his political base in the town of Fatick, where he was re-elected mayor and built up support for his eventually successful presidential bid.

Mr Sall favours cutting the presidential term from five to seven years and limiting the number of consecutive terms a president can serve to two. This pledge helped to win him the endorsement of other candidates in the run-off against President Wade.

Senegal has a lively political scene, with parties competing across ethnic, religious and ideological lines.



News stand in Senegal The media in Senegal frequently criticise the government

Senegal has traditionally enjoyed one of the most unrestricted press climates in the region.

But media freedom is threatened by "physical attacks on news media, jamming of radio broadcasts, abusive prosecutions and the jailing of journalists", Reporters Without Borders said ahead of polls in 2012.

Self-censorship arises from laws which ban reports that discredit the state, incite disorder or spread "false news". Nevertheless, private media often criticise the government.

Radio is an influential medium. Commercial and community stations have mushroomed.

There are nearly 20 daily newspapers. Foreign publications circulate freely and multichannel pay TV is readily available. BBC World Service (105.6 MHz) and Radio France Internationale are available on FM in Dakar.

By December 2011 there were just under two million internet users (Internetworldstats.com). Access is unrestricted.

The press


  • Radiodiffusion Television Senegalaise (RTS) - state-run, operates RTS1 and RTS2
  • TFM - private
  • RDV - private
  • 2S TV - private


  • Radiodiffusion Television Senegalaise (RTS) - state-run, operates Chaine Nationale and Senegal Internationale, Dakar FM, regional services
  • Sud FM - private, in Dakar and other cities
  • Nostalgie - private, Dakar
  • Walf FM - operated by Groupe Wal Fadjri
  • Dunyaa FM - private
  • RFM - private

News agencies


A chronology of key events:

8th century - Present-day Senegal is part of the Kingdom of Ghana.

11th century - Tukulor occupy lower Senegal valley.


Poet president

Senegal's former president Senghor

Leopold Senghor (r), pictured with French President Georges Pompidou in 1971, was independent Senegal's first president

12-14th centuries - Rise of the Jolof empire.

1440s - Portuguese traders reach Senegal river estuary.

1588 - Dutch establish slave port on island of Goree.

1659 - French found St-Louis at the mouth of the Senegal river; it becomes a key slave-trading port.

1677 - French take over island of Goree from the Dutch.

1756-63 - Seven Years' War: Britain takes over French posts in Senegal, forms colony of Senegambia. France regains its holdings during American Revolutionary War of 1775-83.

1816 - Britain returns French holdings captured during Napoleonic Wars.

Late 1800s - France extends its influence, gains control of all the territory of Senegal.

1895 - Senegal becomes part of French West Africa.

1914 - Blaise Diagne elected as Senegal's first African deputy to French parliament.

1946 - Senegal becomes part of the French Union.

1956 - National Assembly established.

1958 - Becomes an autonomous republic, as part of the French Community.


1960 June - Senegal becomes independent, as part of Mali Federation.

1960 August - Senegal pulls out of Mali Federation, becomes separate republic with Leopold Senghor as president.

1962 - Attempted coup led by Prime Minister Mamadou Dia. Dia is imprisoned until 1974.

1963 - First constitution drawn-up.

1966 - Senghor's Senegalese Progressive Union becomes country's sole political party.

1978 - Three-party political system introduced.

1981 - Leopold Senghor steps down; Abdou Diouf becomes president in 1981.

1982 - Senegambian Confederation formed; Senegal and neighbouring Gambia aim to combine military and security forces.

1982 - Separatists in southern province of Casamance form Casamance Movement of Democratic Forces (MFDC).

1988 - Diouf re-elected.

1989 - Senegambian Confederation dissolved.


Peaceful change

Senegalese former president Diouf

Abdou Diouf conceded defeat after 19 years in power

Dispute over grazing rights in southern Mauritania sparks violent unrest in Senegal and Mauritania.

1992 - Diplomatic relations with Mauritania restored.

1993 - Diouf re-elected for third term

Political change

2000 March - Opposition leader Abdoulaye Wade wins second round of presidential elections, ending 40 years of Socialist Party rule.

2001 January - Voters back new constitution which shortens presidential term, limits holder to two terms, and gives president power to dissolve parliament.

2001 March - Government signs peace accord with separatist rebels in Casamance. But there is little follow-up as separatists go through splits and leadership changes.

2001 April - Abdoulaye Wade's Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS) wins an overwhelming majority in parliamentary elections.

2001 December - Leopold Senghor, founding father of Senegal, dies aged 95.

2002 September - Joola ferry disaster: 1,863 passengers are killed when the Senegalese vessel capsizes off the Gambian coast.

2002 November - President Wade sacks the prime minister and the rest of the government; the move is said to be linked to the handling of the Joola ferry disaster.

2004 December - Casamance Movement of Democratic Forces (MFDC) and government sign pact aimed at ending secessionist struggle in province of Casamance.

2005 July - Former PM Idrissa Seck is charged with undermining state security, sparking clashes between his supporters and police. He is jailed for a time, but is released in February 2006 after the charge is dropped.

Tariff row

2005 October - Dispute with neighbouring Gambia over ferry tariffs on the border leads to a transport blockade. The economies of both countries suffer. Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo brokers talks to resolve the issue.


Notorious guest

Chadian ex-president Habre
  • Former Chadian leader Habre moved to Senegal in 1990
  • Accused of ordering 40,000 political killings

2006 August - The army launches an offensive against rebels from a faction of the Casamance Movement of Democratic Forces (MFDC).

Senegal and Spain agree to jointly patrol the Senegalese coast to curb the exodus of illegal migrants heading for Europe. Senegal is a favourite starting point for migrants setting off in rickety boats.

2006 December - Spain and Senegal agree a series of measures to curb illegal migration to the Canary Islands. Spain is to give 4,000 Senegalese temporary work permits over the next two years.

2007 February - President Wade wins re-election.

2007 June - President Wade's ruling coalition increases its parliamentary majority in elections boycotted by the opposition.

2007 September - Spanish authorities launch a campaign on national television in Senegal to discourage illegal migration.

2007 December - President Abdoulaye Wade declares three days of mourning after Serigne Saliou Mbacke, leader of Senegal's richest and most powerful Islamic brotherhood, dies aged 92.

Habre trial moves

2008 April - Senegal's national assembly amends the country's constitution to allow the trial of Chad's ex-leader Hissene Habre, who is accused of human rights abuses during his eight years in power.


Troubled region

Mine clearing worker

A worker prepares to clear mines in the Casamance region where separatists have been waging a low-level war

2009 March - Opposition parties win control of several cities in local elections, including Dakar, formerly a stronghold of President Wade.

2009 April - Belgium starts proceedings at the International Court of Justice in The Hague to try to force Senegal to bring former Chadian President Hissene Habre to trial for alleged human rights abuses during his time in power.

Prime Minister Cheikh Hajibou Soumare steps down after governing coalition suffers losses in local council polls. The president's son Karim is included in the new cabinet.

2009 May - A UN court accepts Senegal's pledge to keep in the country ex-Chad dictator Hissene Habre, ahead of his trial for rights abuses.

2009 September-October - Clashes between troops and rebels in the province of Casamance.

2010 April - Senegal marks 50 years of independence.

France gives up its military bases in the country.

2011 December - Several people killed in attack on a military base in the Casamance region.

2012 January, February - Unrest in run-up to February presidential poll, with police clashing with protesting against President Wade's candidacy.

2012 March - Presidential elections. President Wade concedes defeat in run-off vote. Former prime ministers Macky Sall to be inaugurated in April.

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