Senegal map

Senegal flag

Flag description: three equal vertical bands of green (hoist side), yellow, and red with a small green five-pointed star centred in the yellow band; uses the popular pan-African colours of Ethiopia.

Location: Western Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Guinea-Bissau and Mauritania.

Geographic coordinates: 14 00 N, 14 00 W.

Climate: Tropical; hot, humid; rainy season (May to November) has strong southeast winds; dry season (December to April) dominated by hot, dry, desert wind.

Independence: 4 April 1960 from France; complete independence was achieved upon dissolution of federation with Mali on 20 August 1960 (The Gambia and Senegal signed an agreement on 12 December 1981 (constituted February 1982) that called for the creation of a loose confederation to be known as Senegambia, but the agreement was dissolved on 30 September 1989).

Nationality: Senegalese.

Capital City: Dakar.

Population: 9,987,494 (July 2000 est.).

Head of State: President Abdoulaye Wade.

Area: 196,190 sq km.

Type of Government: Republic under multiparty democratic rule.

Currency: 1 Communaute Financiere Africaine franc (CFAF) = 100 centimes.

Major peoples: Wolof 43.3%, Pular 23.8%, Serer 14.7%, Jola 3.7%, Mandinka 3%, Soninke 1.1%, European and Lebanese 1%, other 9.4%.

Religion: Muslim 92%, indigenous beliefs 6%, Christian 2% (mostly Roman Catholic).

Official Language: French.

Principal Languages: French (official), Wolof, Pulaar, Jola, Mandinka.

Major Exports: fish, ground nuts (peanuts), petroleum products, phosphates, cotton.

Background: During the 14th century the Mali empire expanded westward into present-day Senegal. During the 15th century the Wolof united several small states into the Wolof empire, which lasted into the 18th century. French traders reached the area in about 1637, and French colonists founded the city of Saint-Louis, on the Senegal River, in 1658. The colony passed back and forth between the French and the British during the 18th century and was restored to France in 1815.

GOREE, an island off the coast near Dakar, was the major point of debarkation for millions of African slaves shipped from West Africa to the New World.

In 1895 the Federation of FRENCH WEST AFRICA was formed with Dakar as its capital. Although local self-governing institutions existed in Saint-Louis and Dakar in the 19th century, Senegal was not granted internal self-government until 1956. In 1959, Senegal and the French Soudan (Mali) merged as the Mali Federation, but Senegal broke up the federation soon after independence in 1960.

Senegal is a multi-party democracy. Since independence, periods of centralized presidential rule have alternated with periods when a prime minister has served as head of government. The constitution was revised in 1991 to lower the voting age to 18; restore the post of prime minister; and limit the president, who is directly elected, to two 7-year terms. The prime minister is accountable to the National Assembly, whose members are elected to 5-year terms.

The noted poet Leopold Sedar SENGHOR was president of Senegal from 1960 until his resignation late in 1980. His successor, Abdou Diouf, was elected president in his own right in 1983 and reelected in 1988. From 1982 to 1989, Senegal and Gambia coordinated their defense, economic, and foreign policies through the Confederation of Senegambia.

A border incident with Mauritania in 1989 resulted in violent riots and the displacement of thousands of people from each country; there were renewed clashes in 1991. Senegal also has a continuing territorial dispute with Guinea-Bissau. In 1989 an international panel ruled in Senegal's favor, but Guinea-Bissau rejected the decision.