Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Little History Lesson...


Truth is, I did not know *anything* about this country before I came here except that French was spoken and it was in Africa - but that was really it. I did take time to at least look at a map so I had a sense of where we were headed but there was just too much to prepare and organize to ensure the departure - that leisurely reading about the country just never made the list.  Now that I have some time I thought it prudent to do a little research and understand a bit about this country we're calling 'home' for a year. I figured if I was going to poke around on the internet and do a little reading - I'd cobble together some bits of information from the State Department and the BBC I found interesting to share!

Three equal vertical bands of green (hoist side), yellow, and red with a small green five-pointed star centered in the yellow band; green represents Islam, progress, and hope; yellow signifies natural wealth and progress; red symbolizes sacrifice and determination; the star denotes unity and hope
note: uses the popular Pan-African colors of Ethiopia; the colors from left to right are the same as those of neighboring Mali and the reverse of those on the flag of neighboring Guinea

8th century - Present-day Senegal is part of the Kingdom of Ghana.
11th century - Tukulor occupy lower Senegal valley.
12-14th centuries - Rise of the Jolof empire.
1440s - Portuguese traders reach Senegal river estuary.
1588 - Dutch establish slave port on island of Goree
1659 - French found St-Louis at the mouth of the Senegal river; it becomes a key slave-trading port.
1677 - French take over island of Goree from the Dutch.
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.
1816 - Britain returns French holdings captured during Napoleonic Wars.
Late 1800s - France extends its influence, gains control of all the territory of Senegal.
1895 - Senegal becomes part of French West Africa.
1914 - Blaise Diagne elected as Senegal's first African deputy to French parliament.
1946 - Senegal becomes part of the French Union.
1956 - National Assembly established.
1958 - Becomes an autonomous republic, as part of the French Community. 

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. (Fascinating individual and you can read more about him here --> Leopold Sedar Senghor)

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 (pronounced "wahd"). Senegal experienced its second peaceful transition of power, and its first from one political party to another. Wade was re-elected in 2007; parliamentary elections were held the same year. Presidential and parliamentary elections are scheduled for February 2012.


Senegalese President Wade 

Abdoulaye Wade, the founder of the Senegalese Democratic Party, won re-election in February 2007, gaining nearly 56% of the votes cast - enough to avoid a second-round ballot.After election officials confirmed his win, Mr Wade warned that corruption cases involving his opponents would be re-opened. The opposition Socialist Party said it would challenge the result.Mr Wade came to power in March 2000, winning presidential elections at the fifth attempt and defeating Abdou Diouf's Socialist Party. He was 73 at the time.

He found himself in a political impasse: The presidential poll did not coincide with parliamentary elections and he was left heading a minority coalition. But elections in April 2001 consolidated his power base. His supporters gained control of the national assembly, with his party winning 89 of the 120 seats.An advocate of democratisation, Mr Wade helped to launch the New Partnership for Africa's Development, or Nepad. The plan aims to foster economic recovery through African-led reforms and good governance. He has sought to strengthen ties with the US.His critics say he has failed to deliver on promises to boost living standards.Abdoulaye Wade was born in northern Senegal in 1927. He studied in France and has a French wife.Senegal has a lively political scene, with parties competing across ethnic, religious and ideological lines.

Nationality: Noun and adjective--Senegalese (sing. and pl.).
Population (2011 est.): 12,643,799.
Annual population growth rate: 2.5%.
Ethnic groups: Wolof 43%; Fulani (Peulh) and Toucouleur 23%; Serer 15%; Diola, Mandingo, and others 19%.
Religions: Muslim 94%, Christian 5%, traditional 1%.
Languages: French (official), Wolof, Pulaar, Serer, Diola, Mandingo, Soninke.
Education: Attendance--primary 75.8%, middle school 26.5%, secondary 11% (estimated). Literacy--59.1%.
Health: Infant mortality rate--56.4/1,000. Life expectancy--59.78 years.
Work force (5.53 million): Agriculture--77.5% (subsistence or cash crops). Industry and services--22.5%.

GDP (2009): $12.82 billion.
Real annual growth rate (2010): 4.2%.
Per capita GDP (2010): $1,900 (purchasing power parity).
Inflation rate (consumer prices, 2010): 1.2%.
Natural resources: Fish, peanuts, phosphate, iron ore, gold, titanium, oil and gas, cotton.
Agriculture represents 12.4% of GDP. Products--fish, peanuts, millet, sorghum, manioc, rice, cotton, vegetables, flowers, fruit, livestock, forestry.
Industry: 19.8% of GDP, of which manufacturing and construction compromise 16.3% and energy/mining represent 3.5%. Types--fish and agricultural product processing, light manufacturing, mining, and construction.
Services: 55.6% of GDP, of which transport, warehousing, and communications represent 13.4% of GDP and trade 16.6% of GDP.
Trade: Exports (2008)--$2.05 billion: fish products, peanuts, phosphates, cotton. Major markets (2009)--Mali 20.12%, India 9.84%, The Gambia 5.58%, France 5.02%, Italy 4.23%, U.S. 0.5%. Imports (2010)--$4.474 billion: food, consumer goods, petroleum, machinery, transport equipment, petroleum products, computer equipment. Major suppliers (2009)--France 19.58%, U.K. 9.64%, China 8.08%, Netherlands 5.64%, Thailand 4.75%, U.S. 3.97%.
Exchange rate: African Financial Community franc (CFA) is fixed to the euro. 656 CFA = 1 euro. 495.28 CFA = U.S. $1.
Economic aid: The United States provided about $85.1 million in assistance to Senegal in fiscal year 2009, including $2.1 million for peace and security, $2.4 million for governing justly and democratically, $49.2 million for investing in people, and $31.4 million for economic growth



  1. I really enjoy reading your posts, and the education makes it a double bonus!
    --wendy b

    1. Just going back to all old posts now that we can reply - I'm glad you are enjoying the blog. It's a whole other way of life here. And I'm learning alot myself!

  2. great history lesson -- thanks! as i read your blog, it's nice for me to be less in ignorance about the place you're calling home.

    1. Jen - now that we can reply I'm going back to old posts. Glad you are reading up on our adventure. The fact that we are on the same planet but oh such worlds apart is mind boggling.