Senegal History and Politics

Senegal History

The first residents

Senegal was settled very early in prehistoric times. Hunters and gatherers became sedentary peoples who practiced agriculture. Around 500 AD, Wolof and Serer migrated to what is now Senegal. In the 9th century, Tukulor settled on the Senegal River.

West African empires

The first empire to emerge in what is now Senegal was Takrur in the 9th century. Takrur traded with the Arabs – gold and slaves were supplied in exchange for cotton, copper and pearls – and soon converted to Islam, the religion of the Arabs.

In the 13th century the Wolof founded the Jolof Empire. In the 14th century, the Mali Empire expanded to include today’s Senegal. Jolof became tributary to Mali, and the Casamance and Takrur territories were even directly incorporated into Mali.

When Mali lost its power, Jolof was initially able to assert himself, but in the 16th century it split into several smaller empires: Waalo, Kaylor, Baol, Sine and Saloum. They existed until the end of the 19th century.

Europeans in Senegal

The first Europeans to land on the coast of what is now Senegal were Portuguese. In 1444 they founded their first trading post here. In 1445 Dinis Dias, also Portuguese, landed on Cap Vert (“green cape “) and gave it this name. Dutch, French and British followed in the 16th century.

A lively slave trade began, this time with the New World in America. The island of Gorée off the coast developed into the center of trade. Ownership of the island changed between the four European states Portugal, the Netherlands, France and Great Britain.

In 1677 the French expelled the Dutch. In the 18th and 19th centuries, France and Great Britain fought for control of the country. Slavery was not banned until 1848, and the implementation of the ban would take some time longer. Peanuts and rubber slowly became more important exports.

Colonial times

The empires of Sine and Saloum in particular offered resistance to colonization. In 1859 there was the battle of Logandème in Sine. France won and subjugated the area. In 1895 France declared Senegal a colony. In 1902 Dakar was declared the capital. In the two world wars, Senegalese troops fought on the side of France. The aspirations for independence continued to grow.

History of Senegal from independence until today


In 1958 Senegal became an autonomous republic. In 1960 it gained independence. In June, as a country located in Africa according to commit4fitness, the country first became independent together with Mali as the Mali Federation, but this union did not last long. Both countries declared their independence in September.

Léopold Senghor (1960-1980)

Léopold Senghor became the first President of Senegal. He stayed in office until 1980, that is for 20 years. In the meantime, however, there were crises when the price of peanuts fell and droughts weakened the country. At times only one party was allowed, Senghor ruled authoritarian. From 1974, other parties were re-admitted. 1980 Senghor abdicated.

Abdou Diouf (1980-2000)

Abdou Diouf was the second President of Senegal and remained in office until 2000, also 20 years. Before that, he had been Prime Minister for 10 years.

Senegambia (1982-1989)

On February 1, 1982, the union (confederation) of Senegal with Gambia, the state that is included in it, was formed. The union was called Senegambia. The armed forces, the currency and the economic area were united. But the collaboration turned out to be difficult. Additional administrative work also made the merger more difficult. In 1989 the confederation was ended again.

Casamance conflict

In 1982 the Casamance conflict broke out. A political group campaigns for the independence of this region, in which mainly Diola live. They also received support from Guinea-Bissau. Because agricultural surpluses are produced in the fertile Casamance, it is of great importance to the state of Senegal. Since 1990 there has been repeated armed fighting. The conflict has not yet been resolved.

Border war with Mauritania

In 1989 there was a border war with Mauritania. There was a dispute over the use of water and grazing land on the Senegal River, which forms the border between Mauritania and Senegal.

Abdoulaye Wade (2000-2012) and Macky Sall (since 2012) have been elected Presidents of Senegal since 2000.

Senegal History