Senegal Information

General Information for Senegal

Country: Senegal
Location: West Africa
Independence: August 20, 1960
Nationality: Senegalese
Capital City: Dakar
Population: 7,953,000
Important Cities: Zinguinchor, Saint Louis, Rufisque
Head of State: Abdou Diouf
Area: 197,722
Type of Government: Republic
Currency: 500 FCFA=1 USD
Major peoples: Wolof, Fulani, Serer, Toucoulor, Diola
Religion: Muslim 92%, Christian 25%, African religion 6%
Climate: Tropical
Literacy: 38%
Official Language: French
Principal Languages: Wolof, Diola, Fulfulde
Major Exports: Fish, Phosphates, Cotton, Peanut
Pre-Colonial History In the 13th and 14th centuries, during the time when the Jolof Empire was founded, the area that is now Senegal came under the influence of the great Mandingo empires to the east. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to trade in Senegal, arriving in the 15th century. They were soon followed by the Dutch and French. During the 19th century, the French gradually established control over the interior regions and administered them as a protectorate until 1920 and as a colony thereafter. After 1902, Dakar was the capital of all French West Africa. In 1964, a territorial assembly was elected by a restricted franchise and given advisory powers. These were gradually expanded, and the franchise broadened in succeeding years. After the 1958 French constitutional referendum, Senegal became a member of the French Community with virtually complete internal autonomy.
Post-Colonial History 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) each proclaimed separate independence. Leopold Sedar Senghor 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. Abdou Diouf assumed the presidency in 1981. He encouraged broader political participation, reduced government involvement in the economy, and widened Senegal's diplomatic engagements, particularly with other developing nations. Despite chronic economic problems, tempestuous domestic politics that have, on occasion, spilled over into street violence, border tensions, and nagging and occasionally violent separatist movements in the southern Casamance region, Senegal's commitment to democracy and human rights appears strong as the republic enters its fourth decade of independence.

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