A Brief History of Senegal

Capital: Dakar

Population: 13.1 millionbuy_senegal_flag-01-01

Major Languages: French (official), Wolof

Major Religion: Islam

Currency: CFA

Current President: Macky Sall (term, 2012-19)

Current Prime Minister: Mohamed Dionne

Major exports: millet, sorghum, cotton, peanuts, fish, sugar, produce, and phosphates.

Thiossane: A word used by the Wolof as well as the Serer (Fulani), that means “history, tradition, and culture.”

Overview (according to an article posted on Everyculture.com):

Senegal is a tolerant, secular state, with a primarily Muslim population that has experienced several generations of peace and general stability. The spread of education and increased economic opportunities have modified the country’s traditional social structure based on kinship, but many people remain committed to traditional values such as of Kersa (respect for others) and Tegin (good manners), and Terranga (hospitality). [1]

 Background on Macky Sall

Sall was originally an ally of his predecessor, President Abdoulaye Wade (2000-12), but created an opposition party in 2008 which led to Wade’s defeat in the 2012 elections. Throughout his presidency, the separatist conflict in the southern Casamance region has declined and in 2014 separatist rebel leader, Salif Sadio, declared a unilateral ceasefire. Sall is also known for reducing the presidential term from seven years to five, declaring he wanted to set an example within Africa for other leaders to follow. The proposal was approved in March of 2016 but will not be implemented until after Sall’s term is completed.[2]

Brief Timeline:

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

1677 – French take over island of Goree from the Dutch, the start of nearly 300 years of French oversight.

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.

1895 – Senegal becomes part of French West Africa.

1946 – Senegal becomes part of the French Union.

1959– French colonies of Senegal and French Sudan were merged in 1959 and granted independence in 1960 as the Mali Federation. The union broke up after only a few months.

April 4, 1960 – Senegal becomes an independent country. Léopold Sédar Senghor becomes the first president of decolonized Senegal.

1982– The Movement of Democratic Forces in the Casamance (MDFC) began a low-level separatist insurgency/civil war in southern Senegal.

1982- Senegal joined with The Gambia to form the nominal confederation of Senegambia. The envisaged integration of the two countries was never implemented, and the union was dissolved in 1989.

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

2004 – MFDC and government sign pact aimed at ending secessionist struggle in the southern province of Casamance, however the violence continues until 2014.

2007– Abdoulaye Wade reelected and during his two terms amended Senegal’s constitution over a dozen times to increase executive power and weaken the opposition. His decision to run for a third presidential term sparked a large public backlash.

2012 – Macky Sall wins presidential elections and his coalition wins the parliamentary elections. MPs abolish the upper house, the Senate, and the post of vice president in an effort to save money for flood relief. Critics say the aim is to weaken the opposition. Sall’s term runs until 2019.

2014- President Macky Sall and the leader of the MFDC, Salif Sadio, declare a unilateral ceasefire in the Casamance.

2016– constitutional referendum reduced the term to five years with a maximum of two consecutive terms for future presidents

The Casamance Conflict (1982-2014)

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credit: bbc.com

The Casamance region, in the southwestern corner of the country, is geographically separated from the rest of Senegal by the Gambia. It is divided into two administrative regions: the Ziguinchor region (formerly the Lower Casamance) to the west and the much larger Kolda region to the east. The majority of the conflict was concentrated in the Ziguinchor region.

According to Martin Evans, in Senegal: Mouvement des forces démocratiques de la Casamance (MFDC), “the significant Christian (17%, mostly Catholic) and animist (8%) minorities [of the region] represent a significant divergence from the national average – Senegal is 94% Muslim – leading some Western media coverage of the conflict falsely to characterize Ziguinchor region as a predominantly Christian and animist enclave pitted against Muslim northern Senegal.” Evens argues that “rather than religion, a strong regional identity is expressed among Casamançais, particularly the Diola, in which they distinguish themselves from nordistes (northern Senegalese),” this informs and contributes to the separatists’ dialogue and mentality.

Evans explores the complexities behind the start of the conflict but admits that the generally accepted outbreak for the rebellion was December 26, 1982 when a large number of demonstrators (between a few hundred to a few thousand) marched in Ziguinchor, replacing the Senegalese flag with the white flag of the Casamance. The recently formed MFDC distributed information demanding independence for the Casamance. These demonstrations led to the arrests of numerous MFDC leaders, which sparked increased violence and conflict between the Casamançais and the Senegalese army. Evans estimates that over the course of the thirty-two years of war, an estimated 3,000-5,000 died and 62,500 were displaced.[3] As mentioned above, the conflict continued until 2014 when President Macky Sall and the leader of the MFDC, Salif Sadio, declared a unilateral ceasefire in the region.

[1] “Senegal.” Culture of Senegal. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 June 2016. please note, this site is a forum.

“Senegal Country Profile.” . N.p., n.d. Web. 16 June 2016.

[2] “Senegal Country Profile.” BBC News. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 June 2016.

[3] Evans, Martin “Senegal: Mouvement des forces démocratiques de la Casamance (MFDC),”Chatham House Africa Program Briefing Paper, Vol. 4, No. 2 (Dec. 2004) (pg. 4)

 

Sources:

“Civil War in Senegal’s Casamance Region.” Africa in World Politics. N.p., 5 Nov. 2015. Web. 19 June 2016.

Evans, Martin “Senegal: Mouvement des forces démocratiques de la Casamance (MFDC),”Chatham House Africa Program Briefing Paper, Vol. 4, No. 2 (Dec. 2004)

“HISTORY OF SENEGAL.” HISTORY OF SENEGAL. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 June 2016.

“Senegal Country Profile.” BBC News. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 June 2016.

“Senegal.” Culture of. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 June 2016.

“U.S. Relations With Senegal.” U.S. Department of State. U.S. Department of State, 04 June 2015. Web. 16 June 2016.

Saharper5. “Civil War in Senegal’s Casamance Region.” Africa in World Politics. Wesleyan, 5 Nov. 2015. Web. 23 June 2016.