Senegal Department of State Background

U.S. Department of State Background Note



Senegal is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean, Mauritania, Mali, Guinea, and Guinea-Bissau. The Gambia penetrates more than 320 kilometers (200 mi.) into Senegal. Well-defined dry and humid seasons result from northeast winter winds and southwest summer winds. Dakar's annual rainfall of about 61 centimeters (24 in.) occurs between June and October when maximum temperatures average 27oC (82oF); December to February minimum temperatures are about 17oC (63oF). Interior temperatures are higher than along the coast, and rainfall increases substantially farther south, exceeding 150 centimeters (60 in.) annually in some areas.


About 51% of Senegal's population is rural. In rural areas, density varies from about 77 per square kilometer (200 per sq. mi.) in the west-central region to 2 per square kilometer (5 per sq. mi.) in the arid eastern section. About 50,000 Europeans (mostly French) and Lebanese reside in Senegal, mainly in the cities. French is the official language but is used regularly only by the literate minority. All Senegalese speak an indigenous language, of which Wolof has the largest usage.


Archaeological findings throughout the area indicate that Senegal was inhabited in prehistoric times. Islam established itself in the Senegal River valley in the 11th century; 95% of Senegalese today are Muslims. In the 13th and 14th centuries, the area came under the influence of the Mandingo empires to the east; the Jolof Empire of Senegal also was founded during this time.

In January 1959, Senegal and the French Soudan merged to form the Mali Federation, which became fully independent on June 20, 1960, as a result of the independence and the transfer of power agreement signed with France on April 4, 1960. Due to internal political difficulties, the Federation broke up on August 20, 1960. Senegal and Soudan (renamed the Republic of Mali) proclaimed independence. Leopold Sedar Senghor, internationally known poet, politician, and statesman, was elected Senegal's first President in August 1960.

After the breakup of the Mali Federation, President Senghor and Prime Minister Mamadou Dia governed together under a parliamentary system. In December 1962, their political rivalry led to an attempted coup by Prime Minister Dia. Although this was put down without bloodshed, Dia was arrested and imprisoned, and Senegal adopted a new constitution that consolidated the President's power. In 1980, President Senghor decided to retire from politics, and he handed over power in 1981 to his handpicked successor, Abdou Diouf. Abdou Diouf was President from 1981-2000. He encouraged broader political participation, reduced government involvement in the economy, and widened Senegal's diplomatic engagements, particularly with other developing nations. Domestic politics on occasion spilled over into street violence, border tensions, and a violent separatist movement in the southern region of the Casamance. Nevertheless, Senegal's commitment to democracy and human rights strengthened. Diouf served four terms as President. In the presidential election of 2000, he was defeated, in a free and fair election, by opposition leader Abdoulaye Wade. Senegal experienced its second peaceful transition of power, and its first from one political party to another. President Wade secured the presidency again in February 2007, garnering 55.9% of the vote. Former Prime Minister Idrissa Seck and Socialist Party Candidate Ousmane Tanor Dieng secured 14.92% and 13.56%, respectively. Parliamentary elections were held in June 2007.


Senegal is a secular republic with a strong presidency, weak legislature, weak judiciary, and multiple political parties. Under the 2001 constitution, presidents serve for 5 years and are limited to two terms. Abdoulaye Wade was the last President to be elected to a 7-year term, in 2000. His current term expires in 2012. The National Assembly's members are elected separately from the president. In February 2007, President Wade reenacted the Senate. The president appoints 65 of the 100 Senate members. The president of the Senate serves as the presidential incumbent if the country's president is unable to complete his or her term.

The Cour de Cassation (Highest Appeals Court, equivalent to the U.S. Supreme Court) and the Constitutional Council, the justices of which are named by the president, are the nation's highest tribunals. Senegal is divided into 11 administrative regions, each headed by a governor appointed by and responsible to the president. The law on decentralization, which came into effect in January 1997, distributed significant central government authority to regional assemblies.

Senegal is one of the few African states that has never experienced a coup d'etat. Power was transferred peacefully, if not altogether democratically, from Leopold Sedar Senghor to Abdou Diouf in 1981, and once again, this time in fully democratic elections, from Diouf to Wade in March 2000. Senegal's principal political party was for 40 years the Socialist Party (PS). Its domination of political life came to an end in March 2000, when Wade, the leader of the Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS) and leader of the opposition for more than 25 years, won the presidency. The Socialist Party also dominated the National Assembly until April 2001, when in free and fair legislative elections, President Wade's coalition won a majority (89 of 120 seats). The National Assembly has lost influence in the overall political process during Wade's tenure. Turnout in the June 2007 elections was approximately 35%, with 131 of the 150 seats going to the ruling PDS. Seventeen opposition parties boycotted the elections claiming that February's presidential elections were flawed.

President Wade has advanced a liberal agenda for Senegal, including privatizations and other market-opening measures. He has a strong interest in raising Senegal's regional and international profile. The country, nevertheless, has limited means with which to implement ambitious ideas. The liberalization of the economy is proceeding, but at a slow pace. Senegal continues to play a significant role in regional and international organizations. President Wade has made excellent relations with the United States a high priority.

There are numerous political parties, most of which are marginal and little more than platforms for their leaders. The principal political parties, however, constitute a true multiparty, democratic political culture, and they have contributed to one of the most successful democratic transitions in Africa, in spite of the fact that they failed to nominate a single opposition candidate for the 2007 presidential elections. Senegal has a tradition of a flourishing independent media, largely free from official or informal control, though there were some reports press restrictions prior to the February 2007 election. The country's generally tolerant culture, largely free from ethnic or religious tensions, has provided a resilient base for democratic politics though press freedom and civil liberties have experienced some decline in recent years.

Principal Government Officials
President of the Republic--Abdoulaye Wade
President of the National Assembly--Macky Sall
President of the Senate--Pape Diop
President of the Constitutional Council--Mireille Ndiaye

Prime Minister-- Adjibou Soumare
Senior Minister of Foreign Affairs--Cheikh Tidiane Gadio
Senior Minister of Economy and Finance--Abdoulaye Diop
Senior Minister of Justice, Keeper of the Seals--Cheikh Tidiane Sy
Minister of Armed Forces--Becaye Diop

Ambassador to the United States--Amadou Lamine Ba
Ambassador to the United Nations--Paul Badji

Senegal maintains an embassy in the United States at 2112 Wyoming Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-234-0540), and a Mission to the United Nations at 392 Fifth Avenue, 9th floor, New York, NY 10018 (tel. 212-517-9030).


The former capital of French West Africa, Senegal is a semi-arid country located on the westernmost point of Africa. Predominantly rural and with limited natural resources, the country earns foreign exchange from fish, phosphates, peanuts, tourism, and services. Its economy is highly vulnerable to variations in rainfall and changes in world commodity prices. Senegal depends heavily on foreign assistance, which in 2005 represented about 27% of overall government spending (including both current expenditures and capital investment), or $572 million.

Since the January 1994 CFA franc devaluation, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and other multilateral and bilateral creditors have been supporting the Government of Senegal's structural and sectoral adjustment programs. The broad objectives of the program have been to facilitate growth and development by reducing the role of government in the economy, improving public sector management, enhancing incentives for the private sector, and reducing poverty.

With an external debt of $4 billion (2005), and with its economic reform program on track, Senegal reached its Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) debt relief completion point in April 2004. In 2006, Senegal received $86.2 million (CFA 43.1 billion) in debt relief from HIPC and other multilateral debt forgiveness initiatives. Senegal has made some progress on structural reforms, but the pace has been slow. There have been significant delays in implementing a number of measures on the privatization program, good governance issues, and the promotion of private sector activity. In 2005, the tax revenue to gross domestic product (GDP) ratio was 11.1%, and the current account deficit was 7.5%. Senegal's fiscal deficit has grown over the last several years, figuring at nearly U.S. $600 million in 2007. The IMF warned that Senegal's deficit may approach 10% of GDP in 2008.

Currently, the manufacturing sector is the leading export sector in Senegal with $333 million worth of exports in 2005. The phosphates sector is the second-largest export sector with $193 million in exports, followed by the groundnut sector with $80 million in exports.

Senegal has had moderate success in attracting foreign investment, mostly from France, India, and Morocco. Currently, there are no restrictions on the transfer or repatriation of capital and income earned, or investment financed with convertible foreign exchange. However, the government does limit the amount of foreign exchange individuals may obtain for trips outside Senegal. Outgoing travelers may obtain a maximum of CFA 6 million in euro or foreign currency. Direct U.S. investment in Senegal remains about $100 million, mainly in petroleum marketing, pharmaceuticals manufacturing, chemicals, and banking. Economic assistance, about $700 million a year, comes largely from France, the IMF, the World Bank, and the United States. Canada, Italy, Japan, and Germany also provide assistance. Senegal has received increasing amounts of foreign assistance from Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) countries and China.

Senegal has well-developed though costly port facilities, an international airport serving 28 international airlines that serves as a regional hub, and advanced telecommunications infrastructure, including a fiber optics backbone and cellular phone penetration approaching 10% of the population.


Senegal has well-trained and disciplined armed forces consisting of about 17,000 personnel in the army, air force, navy, and gendarmerie. The Senegalese military force receives most of its training, equipment, and support from France and the United States. Germany also provides support but on a smaller scale. Military noninterference in political affairs has contributed to Senegal's stability since independence.

In August 1981, the Senegalese military was invited into The Gambia by President Dawda Kairaba Jawara to put down a coup attempt. In August 1989, Senegalese-Gambian military cooperation, which began with the joint Senegalese-Gambian efforts during the 1981 coup attempt, ceased with the dissolution of the Senegambian Confederation. Senegal intervened in the Guinea-Bissau civil war in 1998 at the request of former President Vieira.

Senegal has participated in many international and regional peacekeeping missions. Its history of participation in peacekeeping is impressive. Senegal provided peacekeeping forces for the African Union (AU) mission in Darfur, Sudan (AMIS), the UN mission in Liberia (UNIMIL), and the UN mission in Cote d'Ivoire (UNOMCI), with General P.K. Fall, Chief of Defense of the Senegalese Armed Forces, acting as overall Force Commander. In 2000, Senegal sent a battalion to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to participate in MONUC, the UN peacekeeping mission, and agreed to deploy a U.S.-trained battalion to Sierra Leone to participate in UNAMSIL, another UN peacekeeping mission. A Senegalese contingent was deployed on a peacekeeping mission to the Central African Republic in 1997, and in 1994, Senegal sent a battalion-sized force to Rwanda to participate in the UN peacekeeping mission there. In 1992 Senegal sent 1,500 men to the ECOMOG peacekeeping group in Liberia, and in 1991, it was the only Sub-Saharan nation to send a contingent to participate in Operation Desert Storm in the Middle East.

Senegal currently has approximately 3,600 soldiers serving in peacekeeping or peace support missions. This includes approximately 1,600 troops in Darfur and the remainder in Cote d'Ivoire, Liberia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Senegal also has gendarmes serving in Haiti and Bosnia-Herzegovina.


President Senghor advocated close relations with France and negotiation and compromise as the best means of resolving international differences. To a large extent, the two succeeding Presidents have carried on Senghor's policies and philosophies. Senegal has long supported functional integration among French-speaking West African states through the West African Economic and Monetary Union. Senegal has a high profile in many international organizations and was a member of the UN Security Council in 1988-89. It was elected to the UN Commission on Human Rights in 1997. Friendly to the West, especially to France and to the U.S., Senegal also is a vigorous proponent of more assistance from developed countries to the Third World. Senegal will host the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) Summit in March 2008.There has been a 20-year internal conflict in Senegal's southernmost region of the Casamance. The ongoing peace process initiated in December 2004 began to deteriorate in late 2006. Dakar has yet to deliver a comprehensive plan for peace. The rebellion also involved neighboring Guinea-Bissau and The Gambia. With changes in the Government of Guinea-Bissau, tensions between Senegal and its southern neighbor have lessened significantly; however, relations with The Gambia are still tense. There have been tensions with Mauritania over water rights to the Senegal River and ethnic populations that move across porous borders. However, Senegal and Mauritania have recently made strides toward returning more than 20,000 Mauritanian refugees from northern Senegal.


Senegal enjoys an excellent relationship with the United States. The Government of Senegal is known and respected for its able diplomats and has often supported the U.S. in the United Nations, including with troop contributions for peacekeeping activities. The United States maintains friendly relations with Senegal and provides considerable economic and technical assistance. About 300 Senegalese students come to the United States each year for study. President Diouf paid his first official visit to Washington, DC, in August 1983 and traveled several times to the U.S. thereafter. Senegal was President George W. Bush's first stop in his July 2003 visit to Africa. In June 2001, President Wade met President Bush at the White House. Senegal hosted the Second African-African American Summit in 1995. First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton began her trip to Africa in March 1997 with a visit to Senegal, and President Bill Clinton visited Senegal in 1998. Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Walter Kansteiner visited Senegal in August 2001. Foreign Minister Gadio met Secretary of State Colin Powell in September and November 2001. Senegal took a strong position against terrorism in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the U.S., and in October 2001 hosted a conference establishing the African Pact Against Terrorism. On July 20, 2005, Secretary Rice attended the fourth annual African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum held in Dakar, Senegal. The 2005 Forum focused on increasing investment initiatives and facilitating economic and political development in Africa. In June 2006, Foreign Minister Gadio participated in the opening ceremony of the fifth AGOA forum, held in Washington, DC, together with Secretary Rice. Foreign Minister Gadio and Secretary Rice met in August 2007 to discuss major policy priorities for the two nations. In June 2007, First Lady Laura Bush visited Senegal as part of her trip to Africa.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) implements the U.S. Government's development assistance program. USAID's strategy focuses on promoting economic growth/private sector development by expanding microfinance and business development services and commercializing natural and non-traditional products; improving local delivery of services and sustainable use of resources; increasing use of decentralized health services; and improving middle school education, especially for girls. In addition, there is a conflict resolution and rehabilitation program to improve conditions for peace in Senegal's two southern regions known as the "Casamance". Total U.S. assistance for Senegal in FY 2006 was approximately $55.47 million, of which $44.41 million was for development assistance.

The Peace Corps program in Senegal has over 100 volunteers serving in agriculture, forestry, health, and small business development. The program currently has about 170 volunteers. The U.S. Embassy's Cultural Affairs Section administers the Fulbright, Humphrey, and International Visitor exchange programs. The Fulbright teacher, researcher, and lecturer programs are two-way exchanges, hence the section also supports American grantees in Senegal during their stay. In addition to exchanges, the section organizes numerous programs for the Senegalese public including U.S. speaker programs, fine arts programs, film festivals, and a book club. Finally, the section organizes an annual regional colloquium for American Studies professionals, journalists, and civic leaders from over 15 countries in Africa.

Principal U.S. Officials
Deputy Chief of Mission--Jay T. Smith
USAID Director--Kevin Mullally
Peace Corps Director--Christopher Hedrick
Defense Attache--Thomas W. Cook (Acting)
Political Counselor--David Mosby
Political Officer--Osman Tat
Economic Counselor--Wallace Bain
Public Affairs Officer--Robin Diallo
Consular Officer--Jim Loveland
Management Counselor--Salvatore Piazza

The local address of the U.S. Embassy in Senegal is U.S. Embassy, B.P. 49, Ave. Jean XXIII, Dakar, Senegal.

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Revised: Oct. 2007

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