Senegal History

By | November 6, 2021

In Senegalese territory, archaeologists have found remains of civilizations dating back to the Neolithic and Palaeolithic periods. Around the year 500 the Wolof (or Uolof) and Serer from the northeast settled in the country. In the 9th century, the Tukolor settled in the Senegal River Valley and their powerful Tekrur state dominated eastern Senegal between the 11th and 14th centuries. During the 15th century, it was the Wolof and the Serer who managed to impose their sovereignty and until well into the 18th century they dominated other Wolof states, including the Baol, Wale and Cayor.

European rivalry

The current commercial link with Europe was born after the arrival of the Portuguese at the mouth of the Senegal River and the Cape Verde peninsula between 1441 – 1445. The Portuguese traded textiles and metal items for gold dust, gum arabic, and ivory.

Shortly after 1600, the Dutch and French replaced the Portuguese, and by 1700 France had gained control of trade along the entire coastline. Despite the Anglo-French rivalry and the conflicts that arose in the area at the end of the 17th and 18th centuries, the French managed to extend their influence to the interior lands. Due to the vulnerability to tropical diseases of Europeans, most of the commercial activity between France and Africa was in the hands of African intermediaries, who were in charge of supplying the necessary items to the French coastal colonies.

The expansion of the Fulani state of Futa Toro through lower Senegal in the 18th century in turn contributed to the deterioration of French commercial activity in Africa. During the Seven Years’ War, the English took over the French trading posts, although later the latter regained their possessions. The influence exerted by Europeans at that time was more of an economic nature.

French stage

Captain Louis Faidherbe and his successors (second half of the 19th century) forcibly extended and consolidated French control over the Wolof, Serer and Tukolor. In 1895, Senegal officially became a French colony whose government was based in Saint-Louis. In 1902, the seat of the colonial government became the city of Dakar, which was also the capital of French West Africa. Under the French government, Senegal’s economy experienced significant growth thanks to the cultivation of peanuts, which were destined for the export trade.

During 1848 – 1852, French residents in Senegal and the colored residents of Saint-Louis and Gorée (an island near Dakar) elected a deputy to the French National Assembly, and again in 1871, this time with the participation of the residents. Dakar and Rufisque. In 1914, for the first time an African of color, Baise Diagne, was elected deputy to the French Parliament, a post he held until 1934.

After the Second World War, a local assembly was created in Senegal, granting all citizens of the colony the right to vote. At that time, local politics were in the hands of Lamine Guéye and Léopold Sédar Senghor, the representatives of the colony in the French Parliament.


In 1958, as a country located in Africa according to COMMIT4FITNESS, Senegal received almost total autonomy but not full independence achieved until June of 1960, when it became part of the Federation of Mali, which consisted of Senegal and French Sudan (now Mali).

On August 20, 1960, Senegal left the federation and became an independent republic. Senghor was its first president and repeated his term in 1963, 1968, 1973 and 1978. After the failed coup of Prime Minister Mamadou Kia, the president saw his powers increased with the approval of a new constitution in 1963. Under the Senghor regime, the country succeeded in boosting new economic sectors, but revenues from the sale of peanut crops to other countries continued to dominate Senegal’s economic landscape. On several occasions, especially in 1968 and 1973, students staged protests against the concentration of powers in the hands of Senghor.

Amendments to the 1976 Constitution provided for the introduction of a multi-party system in the country, and in late 1980 Senghor resigned. The presidency was then occupied by Abdou Diouf, who had already served as prime minister in 1970. In 1982, Senegal and neighboring Gambia formed a confederation that was known as Senegambia, with Diouf at the helm. The confederation was dissolved in 1989, although in 1991 both countries signed a new cooperation treaty. When in 1988Diouf won an absolute majority in the elections, the opposition protested causing riots in Dakar, and the government declared a state of emergency.

At the end of the 1980s, new conflicts took place, this time over the border with Mauritania. The fierce hostility between Senegalese and Moors unleashed violent clashes in both nations, which ended with the lives of more than 400 people, most of them Senegalese, and the expulsion of each other’s citizens from each country, measures that failed to stop the confrontation. Diouf won the elections again in 1993, but the opposition protested again, alleging electoral fraud. During the following year, signs of political unrest continued.

In March of 1995, in an attempt to end political instability, Prime Minister Habib Thian (commissioned by Diouf) he issued a new cabinet in which were represented political parties of the opposition of the country. After obtaining in 1998 that the constitutional provision reduced to two terms the exercise of the presidency should be deleted, Diouf won the first round of the elections in February of 2000. The second round of the presidential elections took place on March 19, 2000, and in it Abdulaye Wade won, candidate of the Senegalese Democratic Party, thus ending the political dominance of Diouf’s Senegalese Socialist Party.

The 7 of January of 2001 a referendum in which 94% of voters gave their approval to a new constitution promoted by the new president, limiting the presidential term to five years and gave greater functions to the Prime Minister held. In November 2002 Wade dismissed the then head of government, Mame Madior Boye, and appointed Prime Minister Idrissa Seck, who remained in office until April of 2004, when he was relieved by Chérif Macky Sall. The presidential elections held on February 25, 2007 they saw the reelection of Wade. In the legislative elections of June of that same year, the victory went to the Sopi coalition, led by the Senegalese Democratic Party ; shortly after, Cheikh Hadjibou Soumaré became the country’s new prime minister.

Senegal History