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(sĕnĭgôl`, sĕn`ĭgôl), river, c.1,000 mi (1,610 km) long, formed in SW Mali, W Africa, by the confluence of the Bafing and Bakoy rivers, both of which rise in the Fouta Djallon, N Guinea. The river flows north, then generally west to form the Mauritania-Senegal border before entering the Atlantic Ocean at St.-Louis, Senegal. The Falémé River, which forms the Senegal-Mali border, is its chief tributary. Entrance to the river from the sea is impeded by sandbars and a complex delta region. The river is tidal c.300 mi (480 km) upstream, and during the rainy season it is navigable to Kayes, Mali. The river is an important source of irrigation water; rice is grown on the floodplain. In 1968, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, and Senegal established the Organization of Senegal River States to develop the Senegal valley. It was succeeded in 1972 by the Organization for the Development of the Senegal River Valley (OMVS), of which Guinea is not a member.


(sĕnĭgôl`, sĕn`ĭgôl), officially Republic of Senegal, republic (2015 est. pop. 13,975,000), 76,124 sq mi (197,161 sq km), W Africa. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean in the west, by Mauritania in the north, by Mali in the east, and by Guinea and Guinea-Bissau in the south. The Republic of The Gambia is an enclave in the southwest. The capital and largest city of Senegal is DakarDakar
, city (1988 pop. 672,991), capital of Senegal, W Senegal, on Cape Verde Peninsula, a port on the Atlantic Ocean. Situated in a market-gardening region, Dakar is Senegal's largest city and its administrative, communications, and economic center.
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Most of the country is low-lying, with a maximum altitude of c.200 ft (60 m). However, the southeast, which forms a small part of the Fouta Djallon region, rises to c.1,400 ft (430 m). Senegal's coast (c.250 mi/400 km long) is sandy from Saint-Louis to Dakar, situated near the tip of the Cape Verde peninsula, and is swampy or muddy south of Dakar. The country is mostly covered with savanna, which becomes semidesert in the Sahel region of the north and northeast; the southwest is forested. The chief rivers of the country are the Senegal (which forms the boundary with Mauritania), the Falémé, the Gambia (Fr. Gambie), and the Casamance. Lake Guiers is located in the north. In addition to Dakar, other cities include DiourbelDiourbel
, town (1988 pop. 76,548), W Senegal, on the railroad from Dakar to the Niger River in Mali. The market for a peanut-growing region, it produces peanut oil as well as beverages and perfume.
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, KaolackKaolack
, city (1988 pop. 150,961), W Senegal, a port on the Saloum River. Lying in a farm area, Kaolack is a major peanut marketing and exporting center and has a large peanut oil factory.
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, LougaLouga
, town (1988 pop. 52,763), W Senegal. Located in a region where peanuts, cassava, and gum arabic are produced, the town manufactures peanut oil and processes hides and skins. Louga is a road junction and has rail connections with Saint-Louis in NW Senegal.
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, M'BourM'Bour
, town, W Senegal, on the Atlantic Ocean. Ilmenite, rutile, and yirconium are extracted from the titanium ore mined nearby. M'Bour also processes and trades peanuts grown in the area and has a fishing industry. There is a geophysics research institute in the city.
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, Rufisque, Saint-LouisSaint-Louis
, city (1988 pop. 160,689), NW Senegal, a port at the mouth of the Senegal River. The terminus of a railroad from Dakar, it is a fishing, trade, and export center for peanuts, hides, and skins.
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, ThièsThiès
, city (1988 pop. 175,465), W Senegal, on the Dakar-Niger RR. It is the trade center for a farming region where peanuts, cassava, and livestock are raised. Manufactures include construction materials, wood furniture and plywood, and textiles.
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, ToubaTouba
, town (1988 pop. 23,751), Diourbel prov., W Senegal. The terminus of a branch line from main Dakar-Niger RR, it is located in peanut-growing region. Touba is the religious center of the Mourides, an Islamic Sufi brotherhood founded (1887) by Sheik Amadou Bamba Mbacke, and
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, and ZiguinchorZiguinchor
, city (1988 pop. 124,283), SW Senegal, a port on the Casamance River. Located in a rice-growing region, the city produces peanut oil, frozen fish, and orange juice and is an outlet to the sea for the shipment of peanuts and other products of the southern hinterlands.
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The chief ethnic groups are the Wolof, Fulani, Serer, Diola, Malinke, Soninke, and Tukolor. There are small numbers of Berbers, Europeans (mostly French), and Lebanese. French is the country's official language, and each ethnic group speaks its own language. More than 90% of the people are Muslim, belonging to one of four Sufi brotherhoods. The rest are either Christian or followers of traditional religious beliefs.


Senegal is primarily an agricultural country, but industry in the cities, especially Dakar, is growing. The principal food crops are millet, corn, sorghum, rice, and vegetables. Peanuts are the chief cash crop and the country's main agricultural export; they are grown primarily on small farms in the region between the Siné and Saloum rivers near Kaolack and Diourbel. Cotton is also grown and there is a sizable coastal fishing industry. Large numbers of cattle, poultry, pigs, sheep, and goats are raised, although intermittent drought conditions can reduce their population. The principal minerals extracted are phosphate rock, high-grade iron ore, limestone, and gold. Offshore petroleum deposits are being explored.

Industries include peanut and fish processing, fertilizer production, petroleum refining, and ship construction and repair. Tourism and information technology are growing sectors of the economy. The west-central part of Senegal, which includes Saint-Louis, Louga, Dakar, Thiès, and Kaolack, is well served by railroads and major highways; a rail line runs from Dakar to Mali. Dakar is the country's leading port and also has an international airport. The chief imports are foodstuffs (especially rice), machinery, transportation equipment, and crude petroleum; the main exports (in addition to peanuts and peanut products) are processed fish, petroleum products, calcium phosphate, and cotton. France is by far Senegal's leading trade partner; Mali, India, and Nigeria also carry on a considerable trade with the country.


Senegal is governed under the constitution of 2001 as amended. The president, who is the head of state and head of government, is directly elected to a five-year term and is eligible for a second term. The unicameral parliament consists of the 150-seat National Assembly, whose members are popularly elected for five-year terms. Administratively, the country is divided into eleven regions.


Early History

The Tukolor settled in the Senegal River valley in the 9th cent., and during the period from the 10th to 14th cent. their strong state of Tekrur dominated the valley. The Tukolor were converted to Islam and in the mid-11th cent. a group of them participated in establishing the AlmoravidAlmoravids
, Berber Muslim dynasty that ruled Morocco and Muslim Spain in the 11th and 12th cent. The Almoravids may have originated in what is now Mauritania. The real founder was Abd Allah ibn Yasin, who by military force converted a number of Saharan tribes to his own
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 state, centered in Morocco. In the 14th cent. the Mali empire expanded westward from the region of the upper Niger River and conquered Tekrur. In the 15th cent. the Wolof established the Jolof empire in the region between the Senegal and the Siné rivers. Jolof was made up of a number of states (including Wolof, Cayor, Baol, and Walo); internal rivalries led to its breakup in the 17th cent.


In 1444–45, Portuguese explorers reached the mouth of the Senegal River; it and the Gambia River were used as routes to the interior. Trading stations were established at the mouths of the Senegal and Casamance rivers and on Gorée Island and at Rufisque, both located near present-day Dakar. In the 17th cent. the Portuguese were displaced by the Dutch and the French.

The French established a post at the mouth of the Senegal in 1638 and in 1659 founded Saint-Louis on an island there. In 1677, the French captured Gorée from the Dutch, and it was for a time the main French naval base in W Africa. André Brüe, who was director of the Royal Company of Senegal from 1697 to 1720, extended French influence far into the interior, increased the export of slaves, ivory, and gum arabic, and encouraged with little success the cultivation of cotton and cacao. Later the French companies active in Senegal had competition from Fulani and Mande merchants.

During the Seven Years War (1756–63), Great Britain captured all the French posts in Senegal, returning only Gorée in 1763, and joined them with its holdings along the Gambia River to form the short-lived colony of Senegambia, Britain's first colony in Africa. During the American Revolutionary War (1775–83), France regained its posts but surrendered Gorée to Britain under the Treaty of Paris (1783). During the Napoleonic Wars, Britain again captured France's holdings in Senegal, but they were returned in 1815. At this time, the French presence was limited to Saint-Louis, Gorée, and Rufisque, and during the first half of the 19th cent. there was little contact with the interior, whose trade was oriented to the north and east. As part of a French policy of assimilation, inhabitants of Saint-Louis and Gorée elected a deputy to the national assembly in Paris from 1848 to 1852 and (joined by the inhabitants of Rufisque and Dakar) from 1871 to independence in 1960.

During the period from 1854 to 1865 (except for 1862), Capt. Louis FaidherbeFaidherbe, Louis Léon César
, 1818–89, French colonial administrator. He was a leading participant in the establishment of the French colonial empire in Africa.
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 was governor of Senegal, and he extended French influence up the Senegal and along the Casamance and conquered Walo and Cayor. Faidherbe established schools for the Africans and halted the westward expansion of al-Hajj UmarHajj Umar, al-
or Hajj Omar
, 1797–1864, Muslim religious and military leader in W Africa. A chieftain of the large Tukulor tribe of Senegal, he desired to convert the pagan tribespeople of the W Sudan.
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, the Tukolor leader of the Tijaniyya brotherhood, who waged a large-scale holy war from a base in what is now Guinea beginning in the early 1850s. In 1895, Senegal was made a French colony, with its capital at Saint-Louis; it was part of French West AfricaFrench West Africa,
former federation of eight French overseas territories. The constituent territories were Dahomey (now Benin), French Guinea (now Guinea), French Sudan (now Mali), Côte d'Ivoire, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, and Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso).
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, headquartered from 1902 at Dakar.

Under the French, Senegal's trade was reoriented toward the coast, its output of peanuts increased dramatically, and railroads were built. During World War II, Senegal was aligned with the Vichy regime from 1940 to 1942 but then joined the Free French. In 1946, Senegal, together with the rest of French West Africa, became part of the French UnionFrench Union,
1946–58, political entity established by the French constitution of 1946. It comprised metropolitan France (the 90 departments of continental France and Corsica); French overseas departments, territories, settlements, and United Nations trusteeships; French
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, and French citizenship was extended to all Senegalese. Politics in Senegal were led by its two deputies in the French national assembly, Lamine Gueye, whose base was in the coastal cities, and Léopold Sédar SenghorSenghor, Léopold Sédar
, 1906–2001, African statesman and poet; president (1960–80) of the Republic of Senegal, b. Joal. The son of a prosperous landowner, Senghor was extraordinarily gifted in literature and won a scholarship to study at the Sorbonne
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, whose political strength was derived from the rural areas of the interior. In 1948, Senghor founded the Senegalese Democratic Bloc, which dominated politics in Senegal in the 1950s. In 1956, a national assembly was set up in Senegal.

Independence and Modern Senegal

In late 1958, after Charles de Gaulle had come to power in France, Senegal became an autonomous republic within the French CommunityFrench Community,
established in 1958 by the constitution of the Fifth French Republic to replace the French Union. Its members consisted of the French Republic, which included metropolitan France (continental France, Corsica, Algeria and the Sahara), the overseas territories
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. In Jan., 1959, Senegal joined with the Sudanese Republic (the former French Sudan, now MaliMali
, officially Republic of Mali, independent republic (2015 est. pop. 17,468,000), 478,764 sq mi (1,240,000 sq km), the largest country in W Africa. Mali is bordered on the north by Algeria, on the east and southeast by Niger, on the south by Burkina Faso and Côte
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) to form the Mali Federation, which became independent in June, 1960. On Aug. 20, 1960, Senegal withdrew from the federation, becoming an independent state within the French Community. At the time of independence, power was fairly evenly divided between the country's president, Léopold Senghor, and its prime minister, Mamadou Dia. In Dec., 1962, Dia staged an unsuccessful coup; he was arrested, and early in 1963 a new constitution was promulgated giving the president much additional power.

In 1966 the Senegalese Progressive Union (UPS), headed by Senghor, became the country's only political party, and he was reelected overwhelmingly in 1968 and 1973. From the mid-1960s, however, there was considerable unrest in the country, caused by dissatisfaction with the growing concentration of power in Senghor's hands and by a declining economic situation resulting from lower world prices for peanuts and reduced aid from France. The economic situation was worsened by a long-term drought in the Sahel region of N Senegal that lasted from the late 1960s into the mid-1970s. Major demonstrations and strikes became an almost annual occurrence and were particularly disruptive in 1968, 1971, and 1973.

Senghor was a leading force in establishing (1974) the West African Economic Community, which linked six former French territories. Throughout the 1970s, Senghor continued to consolidate power in the presidency and strengthened relations with the country's Muslim leadership. In 1978, the government mandated a three-party system based on official ideological categories; a fourth party was legalized in 1979. Despite the institution of a system that effectively banned Senghor's opponents from the political process, opposition from unofficial political organizations grew steadily.

In 1981, Senghor, who remained head of the Socialist party (SP), yielded the presidency to Abdou Diouf. After a successful Senegalese intervention in a coup attempt in The Gambia, both countries officially proclaimed their union in a Senegambian confederation. Each nation was to maintain its sovereignty while consolidating their defense, economies, and foreign relations.

In response to mounting criticism of his regime, Diouf abolished government limits on the number of political parties. Deteriorating economic conditions led the government to adopt unpopular austerity measures, causing unrest in both rural and urban areas. The government subsequently strengthened the police force and restored some restrictions on political activity.

The elections of 1988, in which Diouf was reelected amid charges of fraud, took a violent turn, leading the regime to ban all public meetings. Two diplomatic crises arose in 1989: a maritime border dispute with Guinea-Bissau (later resolved by the International Court of Justice in favor of Senegal) and a violent dispute with Mauritania that evolved from a conflict over grazing rights in S Mauritania. Some 40,000 Senegalese workers and some 65,000 black Mauritanians were driven or fled from Mauritania for Senegal. In the same year, the confederation with The Gambia was dissolved.

Diouf was again elected in 1993. Legislative elections held in 1998 were won by the SP, as were elections for the newly created senate in 1999. Opposition parties boycotted the senate election. In the presidential elections in early 2000, however, Abdoulaye WadeWade, Abdoulaye
, 1926–, Senegalese political leader. He studied at several French universities, receiving (1970) a doctorate in law and economics from the Sorbonne, and was a law professor and lawyer in France before returning to Senegal to practice law and teach it at
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 of the Senegalese Democratic party defeated Diouf after a runoff; Wade's election ended nearly 40 years of Socialist rule in Senegal. In Jan., 2001, a new constitution was adopted, establishing a unicameral parliament and reducing the president's term to five years.

Casamance, an undeveloped region south of Gambia and centered on the Casamance River, has been the scene of a violent separatist movement since the 1980s. An agreement with the rebels there was signed in Mar., 2001, but the accord failed to end the fighting. In April, a coalition supporting President Wade won a majority in the national assembly. In Dec., 2004, a new cease-fire accord was signed with the Casamance rebels, but not all rebel factions supported the pact. The fighting there continued; in Aug., 2006, the government launched a significant new offensive against the rebels who had not signed the peace pact.

Wade was reelected in Feb., 2007, in an election African observers termed free and fair, but opposition parties accused the government of fraud. Wade's coalition won an overwhelming majority in the national assembly elections in June, 2007; the opposition largely boycotted that vote and the August one for senate seats. A proposed constitutional amendment to create a vice presidency, which many believed was designed to enable Wade's son to succeed him, led to violent protests in June, 2011, and it was not adopted. Wade's bid for a third presidential term also alienated former supporters, and in Mar., 2012, he lost the presidential runoff to Macky SallSall, Macky,
Senegalese political leader. Trained as a geologist, he graduated from Dakar's Cheikh Anta Diop Univ. and also studied in France. A protégé of President Abdoulaye Wade and a member of the Senegalese Democratic party, Sall was appointed (2000) Wade's
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, his former prime minister and the Alliance for the Republic candidate.

In July, 2012, Sall's United in Hope coalition won an overwhelming majority in the assembly elections. In August, following severer than normal flooding during the rainy season, Sall called for the country's largely appointed Senate to be abolished and for the money saved to be used toward aiding flood victims and preventing future flooding. The move was criticized as an attempt to weaken the opposition (most senators supported Sall's predecessor), but the change was approved in September. A 2016 referendum approved shortening the presidential term from seven to five years, as it had originally been under the 2001 constitution. The post of prime minister was abolished in May, 2019. In the July, 2017, parliamentary elections the president's coalition easily won a majority of the seats. Sall, benefiting from significant economic growth, was easily reelected in Feb., 2019, but two opposition politicians who might have been significant opponents were barred from running due to corruption convictions.


See L. C. Behrman, Muslim Brotherhoods and Politics in Senegal (1970); G. W. Johnson, The Emergence of Black Politics in Senegal: The Struggle for Power in the Four Communes, 1900–1920 (1971); D. B. C. O'Brien, The Mourides of Senegal (1971); W. A. Skurnik, The Foreign Policy of Senegal (1972); L. G. Colvin, Historical Dictionary of Senegal (1981); R. Fatton, Jr., The Making of a Liberal Democracy: Senegal's Passive Revolution, 1975–1985 (1987); C. L. Delgado et al., The Political Economy of Senegal under Structural Adjustment (1991).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a river in West Africa, flowing through the Republic of Guinea, Mali, Senegal, and Mauritania. Rising in the Fouta Djallon Mountains as the Bafing River, the river is called the Sénégal only after its confluence with the Bakoy River. Its length from the headwaters of the Bafing River is 1,430 km, and it drains an area of 441,000 sq km. The Sénégal is full of rapids in the upper course and forms many waterfalls; farther downstream it flows mostly through flat country. It empties into the Atlantic, forming a delta of about 1,500 sq km. Its mouth is obstructed by a sandbar.

The river’s discharge fluctuates from 5 cu m per sec in May to 2,000–5,000 cu m per sec in August and September. During the high-water period from June through October the river is navigable for 888 km to Kayes, and after the water level drops, to Podor 283 km upstream. A hydroelectric station has been built on the river, which is also used for irrigation and fishing. The largest cities on the river are the port of Saint-Louis at its mouth, Bafoulabé, and Bakel.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


Official name: Republic of Senegal

Capital city: Dakar

Internet country code: .sn

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

Geographical description: Western Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Guinea-Bissau and Mauri­tania

Total area: 76,000 sq. mi. (196,840 sq. km.)

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

Nationality: noun: Senegalese (singular and plural); adjective: Senegalese

Population: 12,521,851 (July 2007 CIA est.)

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

Languages spoken: French (official), Wolof, Pulaar, Serer, Diola, Mandingo, Soninke

Religions: Muslim 94%, Christian (mostly Roman Catholic) 5%, indigenous religions 1%

Legal Holidays:

All Saints' DayNov 1
Assumption DayAug 15
Christmas DayDec 25
Easter MondayApr 25, 2011; Apr 9, 2012; Apr 1, 2013; Apr 21, 2014; Apr 6, 2015; Mar 28, 2016; Apr 17, 2017; Apr 2, 2018; Apr 22, 2019; Apr 13, 2020; Apr 5, 2021; Apr 18, 2022; Apr 10, 2023
Independence DayApr 4
Labor DayMay 1
New Year's DayJan 1
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.


a republic in West Africa, on the Atlantic: made part of French West Africa in 1895; became fully independent in 1960; joined with The Gambia to form the Confederation of Senegambia (1982--89); mostly low-lying, with semidesert in the north and tropical forest in the southwest. Official language: French. Religion: Muslim majority. Currency: franc. Capital: Dakar. Pop.: 10 339 000 (2004 est.). Area: 197 160 sq. km (76 124 sq. miles)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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