Country profile: Senegal
Senegal has been held up as one of Africa's model
democracies. It has an established multi-party system and a tradition of
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
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
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
At a glance
- 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
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,
- GNI per capita: US $1,090 (World Bank, 2010)
- Internet domain: .sn
- International dialling code: +221
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
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
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.
The media in Senegal frequently criticise the
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
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.
- Radiodiffusion Television Senegalaise (RTS) - state-run, operates RTS1
- 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
- Nostalgie - private, Dakar
- Walf FM - operated by Groupe Wal Fadjri
- Dunyaa FM - private
- RFM - private
A chronology of key events:
8th century - Present-day Senegal is part of the Kingdom of
11th century - Tukulor occupy lower Senegal valley.
Leopold Senghor (r), pictured with French President Georges Pompidou in
1971, was independent Senegal's first president
12-14th centuries - Rise of the Jolof
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
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
1960 June - Senegal becomes independent, as part of Mali
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.
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
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
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
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
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
- 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
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.
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
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
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
2012 March - Presidential elections. President Wade concedes
defeat in run-off vote. Former prime ministers Macky Sall to be inaugurated in