Senegal History

Senegal History

Early to middle ages

The earliest traces of settlement on the banks of the Senegal River are dated to the Paleolithic. In the 6th century AD the area of ​​today’s Republic of Senegal was populated by the Wolof and Serer peoples, who belong to the Sudanid peoples. They ran cattle and hikers’ fields. Around 900 the area was under the influence of the great empire Ghana (Gana), whose dominion stretched from the upper Niger to the mouth of the Senegal. The economic basis of the empire was the Trans-Saharan trade in gold, salt and slaves. In the 9th century, the Tukulor immigrated to the Senegal river valley.

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According to AbbreviationFinder, the great empire of Gana disintegrated in the 11th century, among other things due to the invasion of Berber peoples (Almoravids) from the north who brought Islam to the area. In the 13th century, the Mali empire in western Sudan ruled the peoples of the Sudan region. It was only in the 14th and 15th centuries that the Wolof empires were no longer under foreign rule.

Colonial period

From 1444, Portuguese established their first branches at the mouth of the Senegal River and established trade relations with the tribes living there. Subsequently, ivory, gum arabic and gold became the most important commodities, later trade in slaves, which were caught in the hinterland and taken to America, flourished here (an estimated 700,000 slaves were shipped). In the 16th century, the Portuguese were followed by the Dutch, British and French, who finally pushed the Portuguese away. The empires of the Wolof played an important role in the slave trade with the Europeans.

In the competition between the colonial powers, France prevailed against Great Britain at the end of the 18th century. The British only had areas on the lower reaches of the Gambia River (today the State of The Gambia is an enclave in the territory of Senegal).

In the 19th century, France conquered the Wolof, Serer and Tukulor peoples and made the area of ​​what is now Senegal a colony in 1864. The trade in slaves continued until around the middle of the 19th century, although it was officially banned at the Vienna Congress in 1815. In 1895 the city of Dakar became the administrative seat of the General Government of French West Africa (“Afrique Occidentale Française”, apart from Senegal, which included the present-day states of Benin , Ivory Coast and Guinea).


At the beginning of the 20th century, the first independence movements against the French colonial power developed. The Parti Socialiste S¨¦n¨¦galais, (PSS, Socialist Party) was founded in 1935, and in 1946 L¨¦opold S¨¦dar Senghor and Amadou Lamine-Gu¨¦ye, two of the leading figures in the Senegalese independence movement, came to the French National Assembly. Senghor founded the Bloc D¨¦mocratique S¨¦n¨¦galais (BDS), the concept of which explicitly took into account the rural population and which was tailored to the many different ethnic groups (from 1957 Bloc Populaire S¨¦n¨¦galais, BPS).

1958 Senegal became an autonomous republic within the French community. Mamadou Dia became the first head of government from the UPS (Union Populaire S¨¦n¨¦galaise) party, which emerged from a merger of the BPS and the Socialist Party and dominated the country’s politics for the next two decades. After a short joint federation with the neighboring republic Soudan (later Mali), Senegal became an independent and sovereign state in August 1960. L¨¦opold S¨¦dar Senghor became president. The president’s powers were further expanded in 1963 after a failed coup attempt, and the UPS became a unified party.

After riots and general strikes against his authoritarian leadership style in the early 1970s, President Senghor initiated a gradual democratization. In the first free elections, held in 1978, the ruling party (which has since been renamed Parti Socialiste, PS) won over 80% of the vote. The most important opposition party was the liberal PDS (Parti D¨¦mocratique S¨¦n¨¦galais). In 1980 Senghor voluntarily resigned from his post as head of state, his successor was Abdou Diouf.

Under the leadership of Diouf, Senegal and Gambia merged in 1982 to form the Senegambia Confederation, which lasted until 1989. In the early 1990s, renewed unrest in the country led to further liberalization measures (including a limitation of the president’s term of office to two terms).

The construction of the Manantali Dam, which started in 1981, was completed in 2002; the Diama dam has been operational since 1987. The large system consists of a fresh water reservoir, which is used for irrigation, and a hydropower plant. The project has been heavily criticized for its environmental impact and economic benefits.

From 1992 there were repeated attacks and attacks by the rebel movement “Mouvement des forces d¨¦mocratiques de Casamance” (MFDC), which fought for the independence of its region in the southern part of Casamance. Despite numerous ceasefire agreements, fighting between government forces and the MFDC rebels continued. Between August 2009 and March 2010, thousands of people had to flee when there was renewed fighting between MFDC rebels and the army. A de facto ceasefire has largely been observed since the change of power in 2012.

In the elections in February / March 2000, the previous opposition leader Abdoulaye Wade prevailed against his competitor Abdou Diouf and became the new president. In January 2001, the majority of Senegalese voters voted to create a new constitution that, among other things, limits the President’s powers and shortens his term from seven to five years. The rights of citizens, especially women, have been strengthened. In February 2007, Wade was confirmed in office for another five years. Macky Sall has been President since April 2012.

Senegal President