In 1960, the Republic of Senegal achieved
full independence from the colonial power of France. The
country's first president was Leopold Sédar Senghor. In
the 1960s, Senegal was in practice developed into a
single-party state, but during the 1970s opposition
parties were allowed. Senghor handed over power to Abdou
Diouf in 1981, who together with the Socialist Party won
all elections until 2000, when Adboulaye Wade from the
PDS party won and a peaceful change of power came to
fruition. In 2012, Wade himself was defeated by Macky
Sall of APR-Yakaar in an unusually troubled election for
Léopold Sédar Senghor was a Catholic teacher, poet
and politician who advocated "African socialism". The
1963 National Assembly election was won by his party,
the Senegalese Progress Union (in
French abbreviated to UPS), but the
result was disputed and triggered riots in Dakar. Soon,
the parties that did not want to join UPS were banned.
In the 1968 election, UPS claimed it received 99 percent
of the vote, which led to new unrest.
List of most commonly used acronyms containing Senegal. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.
But while most African leaders adhered to one-party
or military rule, Senghor chose to go against political
diversity. An opposition party was allowed in 1974. Two
years later, it was decided that three parties with
different ideological orientations would work: Senghor's
own party which changed its name to the
Socialist Party (PS), a
liberal party and a Marxist-Leninist. They were
supplemented in 1978 with a conservative party, while
other political organizations continued to work
The conflict in Casamance erupts
At the turn of the year 1980-1981, Senghor
voluntarily left the post and was succeeded by his Prime
Minister Abdou Diouf, who abolished the restrictions on
political parties. Thus, the 1983 presidential and
parliamentary elections became the first free in
Senegal's history. They won by a large majority of PS
and Diouf remained as president.
An armed conflict erupted in the Casamance region in
the south in 1982, when the Movement for the
Casamance Democratic Forces (MFDC)
launched a struggle for independence. The region is
partly isolated from the rest of Senegal by the Gambia
cutting into the country as a long-arm and the
development in Casamance had long been neglected.
Furthermore, cultural and religious traditions are
partly different there and many Casamancebor people had
reacted to the "Wolofisation" when Senegalese from the
north had moved there and received high administrative
In 1982, Senegal and Gambia entered into an economic
and military confederation called Senegambia.
The purpose of the confederation was to create a free
trade zone and more easily reach Casamance. But Gambia
slowed down the cooperation for fear of being dominated
by the larger neighboring country and seven years later
Diouf and PS won all elections between 1983 and 2000,
while the Liberal Senegal Democratic Party
(PDS) and its leader Abdoulaye Wade
were in second place. At each election there were unrest
and the opposition accused the regime of cheating. Wade
and other politicians were arrested on several
occasions. But both Wade and other opposition
politicians also joined the government for two longer
periods in the 1990s.
The support for PDS and Wade increased with the
growing dissatisfaction with the PS regime, which was
criticized for failing to solve the country's major
problems with widespread poverty and high unemployment.
The party was also accused of corruption and
imperfection. To bring about a change of power, several
smaller parties to the left of PS agreed to support
Socialists lose power
The 2000 presidential election was historic. Diouf
did win in the first round, but did not get his own
majority. In the second round, support for Wade
increased, winning 58 percent of the vote. Diouf quickly
acknowledged his defeat and congratulated Wade. Pride
over the peaceful shift of power was evident even among
One of the major challenges facing the new president
was the Casamanca conflict. Peace talks had taken place
at Wade's takeover of power for several years without
any lasting results. Despite several agreements on
ceasefire during the 1990s, the fighting continued.
Although the conflict was relatively low-intensity, the
civilian population was severely affected. Thousands of
people were forced to flee their homes, some of them to
neighboring countries Gambia and Guinea-Bissau.
After a new constitution was adopted following a
referendum in January 2001, Wade dissolved the
PS-dominated parliament and announced new elections. The
parliamentary elections in April became a success for
the PDS-dominated election alliance Sopi, which included
some forty parties. With almost half of the vote, Sopi
received 89 out of 120 seats in parliament. The election
was judged to have been carried out correctly and soon a
new government was formed.
In September 2002, a ferry disaster occurred that
would have political consequences. The state-owned
passenger ferry MV Joola sank on the way from Casamance
to Dakar, and over 1,800 people lost their lives. The
ferry line was run by the military who received severe
criticism both because too many passengers had been
allowed on the boat (permission was available for 550
people) and because it took several hours before the
rescue operations were started. The government took on
the debt and both the Defense and Transport Ministers
and the Prime Minister were allowed to resign.
Increased political violence
However, criticism against the president and the
government continued. Promised damages for victims did
not occur and it took until 2005 before a replacement
ferry was put into service. It reinforced the image of
Casamance as a disadvantaged region. Despite
deliberations and agreements on ceasefire, several new
outbreaks of violence occurred in Casamance in the early
At the same time, a new kind of political violence
created for society in Senegal. Several threats and
assaults were directed at journalists and opposition
politicians, among others. Human rights organizations,
trade unions and political parties protested against the
increasing political violence.
A peace agreement was signed in December 2004 between
the government and one of the founders of the separatist
movement MFDC in Casamance. The MFDC pledged to end its
armed struggle while the government in turn promised to
give the rebels amnesty. The agreement also contained
promises of a reconstruction of Casamance. However, the
MFDC was still fragmented and several of the
organization's factions were opposed to the agreement.
Prosecution was brought in 2005 against Idrissa Seck,
who was prime minister from 2002 to 2004 but dismissed
by the president. Seck was accused of embezzling state
funds and jeopardizing the country's security. He was
released in February 2006 and released after six months
in custody. Many saw the legal process as part of a
power struggle between Wade and former employee Seck,
who now emerged as one of the president's foremost
Wade strengthens his power
At the beginning of 2006, new unrest erupted in
Casamance. An outbreak group from the rebel movement
MFDC clashed with the Bissau Guinean military along the
border with Guinea-Bissau. Struggles also took place
between different factions of the MFDC. In the northern
part of Casamance there were clashes between the
Senegalese army and separatists.
The parliamentary elections that would have been held
in 2006 were postponed, citing that money was better
needed for reconstruction following floods the summer
before. The opposition accused the government of trying
to stay in power in every way.
In contrast, presidential elections were held in
February 2007. The 80-year-old Wade ran for re-election.
Among the 14 contenders were former Prime Minister Seck,
Socialist Party's Ousmane Tanor Dieng and Moustapha
Niasse of the Alliance for Progressives
(AFP). Wade won 56 percent of the votes
already in the first round. Crucial to the success was a
massive election campaign, strong control of the state
apparatus and large financial resources. The opposition
was divided and had difficulty reaching the voters. The
election itself was conducted correctly according to
election observers, but the opposition accused the
government of cheating. Several of the major parties
formed an alliance and decided to boycott the
parliamentary elections in June 2007.
The boycott paved the way for an overwhelming victory
for the Alliance Sopi dominated by PDS. Many voters
seemed to have obeyed the opposition's call not to vote;
turnout was at a record low of 35 percent. Large parts
of the opposition also boycotted the election in August
to the newly created Senate (see Political system). The
Senate election meant that Wade further strengthened his
power, as the PDS secured 34 of 35 electoral seats and
the president himself appointed the remaining 65
Dissatisfaction and rattles
In November 2007, Dakar was shaken by violent riots,
in what was described as the worst unrest in two
decades. The trigger was the government's attempt to
remove thousands of salvo stands from the city's narrow
streets. But the protests also concerned rising food
prices and high unemployment. Many expressed
dissatisfaction that the government was investing in
building luxury hotels and freeways instead of trying to
fight widespread poverty.
From the end of 2007 it became clear that there were
major contradictions within the governing PDS. The party
leadership abolished the general secretary post held by
Macky Sall, who was also President of the National
Assembly and had been Prime Minister from 2004-2007.
Sall and Wade must have been in conflict since the
previous criticism of President Karim Wade in connection
with a major construction project in Dakar.
Many expressed suspicions that President Wade was
trying to pave the way for his son to succeed him, as
PDS leader and for the country. At the end of 2008, Sall
was also maneuvered from the President's post.
During the year, a constitutional amendment was
adopted which meant that the president's term of office
was again seven years (see Political system). The
opposition protested and felt that voters should be
allowed to decide on the change in a referendum.
Kravaller broke out several times in 2008, against
high consumer prices, recurring electricity cuts and
police overwhelming protesters. The tougher living
conditions also led to several school strikes.
Hard fighting in Casamance
The dissatisfaction contributed to a sharp setback
for Sopi in the local and regional elections which,
after being postponed several times, was held in March
2009. The opposition gathered in the alliance
Benno Siggil Senegaal took power in Dakar and
several other major cities.
In one of countless redevelopments, President May
Karim Wade received a government post for the first time
in May 2009. He became minister in a new
super-department responsible for communications and
international cooperation. The appointment triggered
accusations of nepotism. At the same time, President
Wade reiterated his already stated intention to stand
for re-election in 2012.
During the summer of 2009, new battles broke out in
Casamance. The clashes between separatists and
government forces were the worst in seven years. Several
casualties were demanded in assaults and battles that
returned during the year.
In connection with the 50th anniversary of Senegal's
independence, a huge statue was inaugurated in Dakar in
April 2010, depicting a man, a woman and a child. The
statue initiative, which was built by North Korean
workers, was taken by the president, who, however,
received a lot of criticism, partly because of the high
cost of $ 27 million and for the easily dressed figures
to run counter to Islam.
Riot against President Wade
From mid-2010, an increasingly intense debate raged
over Wade's decision to seek a third term. According to
the critics, this violated the constitutional rule for a
maximum of two terms of office for a president. However,
PDS considered that this restriction was not applicable
since it was first introduced in 2001, and Wade was only
elected once since then.
Electric shortages and toughening economic conditions
contributed to the protests against the president
growing in strength in 2011. Many, especially young
Senegalese, gathered under the slogan Y 'a marre
(We have had enough). Among other things, they organized
themselves through Facebook. Tongues in the protest
movement were several rappers, including Thiat (Oumar
Touré) and Fou Malade (Malal Talla), as well as
journalist Fadel Barro.
When Wade made an attempt to enforce a constitutional
change in June, the reaction became fierce. The proposal
was that 25 percent voter support in the first round
would suffice for victory in the presidential election,
instead of the current 50 percent. It would have almost
guaranteed victory for Wade. He also wanted to set up a
vice presidential post, which everyone assumed would go
to Karim Wade.
When the National Assembly discussed the
constitutional amendment, the loosely composed network
that was behind the Y mobilized a marre slogan. The
riots broke out in different parts of the country on
June 23. Government buildings and the property of the
state electricity company are on fire. The protests were
so violent that the proposal had to be withdrawn. The
network then came under the name of the June 23
Worried election campaign
In the fall of 2011, PDS officially nominated Wade as
its candidate in the presidential election in February
2012. Demonstrations against the government continued.
The M23 organized protest meetings on the 23rd of each
month. Unrest was reported on several occasions.
Many felt that Wade had a decent chance of winning in
the first round, despite the strong criticism against
him. The reason was the great divide within the
opposition. When Benno Siggil Senegaal appointed
Moustapha Niasse, leader of the Progressive Alliance (AFP),
as his candidate, the leader of the Socialist Party,
Ousmane Tanor Dieng, announced that he would also be a
candidate - even though PS was a member of the alliance.
Several former allies with Wade also claimed the
presidential post. Among them were Macky Sall, former
Prime Minister Idrissa Seck and former Foreign Minister
Cheikh Tidiane Gadio.
In January 2012, world-renowned singer Youssou N'Dour
also announced his intention to run for president.
N'Dour, who was also a successful businessman and owner
of several media organizations, was believed to be able
to attract many of the young people who participated in
the protests against Wade. But his candidacy was
rejected by the Constitutional Court the same month. He
found that only 9,000 of the 13,000 signatures he
collected were considered valid. The requirement to set
up was 10,000 signatures. Two other candidates were also
rejected while 13 were approved - among them Wade.
Wade is defeated by Sall
The decision that Wade was allowed to stand was
expected, as the members of the Constitutional Court
were appointed by the President and loyal to him. But
the rash triggered violent confrontations. Tens of
thousands of dissatisfied voters protested in Dakar and
security forces used tear gas to disperse them.
Buildings were set on fire and a police officer was
killed. The following days, the rattles were spread to
other cities and several deaths were reported.
The situation in the country suddenly appeared
unstable. Many drew parallels with the Arab Spring that
shook countries in North Africa and the Middle East last
year. The United Nations, the United States and France
expressed concern about the situation, several embassies
were reported to be preparing to evacuate their
personnel, and there were even rumors of plans for a
Before the first round of elections in February 2012,
protests increased and six people were killed in
connection with riots. The election was still held as
planned. When the result was presented, it turned out to
be a second round of elections between Wade and Sall.
During the month that passed before the second round was
held, it was quite calm in the country. Even the
election day itself ended without major disruptions.
Already the same evening, before any official result was
available, Wade admitted to being defeated. Thus, the
victory was in port for Sall, who left the PDS and
formed a new party: Alliance for the