The history of Senegal.

Pre-colonial Senegal

The inventory of prehistoric sites and the data provided by oral tradition lead us to believe that the settlement of pre-colonial Senegal took place from the north and the east, with the arrival of several migratory waves

The first arrivals, called “little Negroes”, were gradually pushed south by the “big Negroes”.

The last great invasion would be that of the Wolof, the Peul and the Sereer (or Sereer), all belonging to the Bafour group, whose break-up into several branches seems to correlate with Almoravid pressure. On the upper river, Namandirou, a country bordering the Falémé, served as a place of transit and passage for the Manding advancing towards Senegambia and mingling at first with the Soninké. then to the Sereer and the Wolof.

The history of pre-colonial Senegal is mainly characterized by the existence of kingdoms or states that were gradually broken up.

The formation of the Jolof (or Djolof) empire, contemporary with the Almoravid expansion, is attributed to Ndiadiane Ndiaye, probable son of the Almoravid chief Aboubacar Ben Omar and Fatoumata Sall. From this union, Abu Dardai was born, who ended up bearing the name of Ndiadiane because of the miracles surrounding his arrival in Jolof.

In the 15th century, the area between the Senegal and Gambia rivers belonged to a single political entity: the Jolof. With the weakening of the Mali empire, Gabou broke away and became an independent state stretching from the Gambia to the north of present-day Guinea-Bissau.

In the 16th century, the dissidences of Cayor, Baol, Wallo, Sine and Saloum were the reason for its unity. Jolof was reduced to the limits of a very modest kingdom.

In 1512, after long wanderings, the Fulani, under the leadership of Tenguella and his son Koly, settled in Fouta Toro and created a state, Fouta Deyanke, which lasted from 1512 to 1776. This state was put to the test by the Moors who hoped to submit it to their authority.

After proclaiming its independence, Gabou tried to take advantage of its position as a contact point between the Europeans and their allies on the coast on the one hand, and the Diola in the interior on the other. The immense material benefits they received from each other prompted the rulers to strengthen their authority over the various provinces. But the Baïnouk and Diola societies refused to dissolve their identity into that of Gabon and went deep into their forests where they could maintain their autonomy and their way of life.

In the 18th century, the misdeeds of the slave trade affected all categories of African societies. At that time, there was a great deal of political fragmentation; entities were limited to ethnic groups that spent most of their time at war with each other.

During the same period, the Manding Diola involved in the slave trade spread Islam along their routes. The neophytes used this religion as a weapon of combat in an attempt to re-found their political entities socially, economically and morally.

From kingdoms to the “time of the governors”: the colonial conquest

At the beginning of the 19th century, the French possessions were few in number, scattered and small in size. Heirs to the slave trade counters established in the 17th century, these meeting points of maritime and continental trade had only limited activity: this was the case of Saint-Louis, Gorée, Rufisque, Portudal or Joal, while some centers, such as Podor, were ruined or destroyed. Until the arrival of Faidherbe and the spread of groundnuts as a commercial crop, imperialist progress remained limited. A few governors attempted to revive the gum trade on the Senegal River, but the reconstruction of trading establishments met with hostility from the Moorish and Toucouleur populations. In 1822, while the British controlled traffic on the Gambia, Goree functioned as a free port, but commercial activities were reduced everywhere, especially along the river where merchants were subject to the “custom” system. customs taxes imposed by the Moors who dominate the right bank.

From 1850 onwards, French colonial policy changed: the increased need for raw materials for manufacturing industries and the progression of the “colonial idea”, encouraged by imperialist rivalries, led to a strategy of occupation and development from the former trading posts. The Senegambian space then becomes an object of conquest, a first stage on the road to the Western Sudan. This policy was implemented by Faidherbe: in ten years (1854-1864), the entire coastline between the Senegal and Saloum rivers came under French rule, military posts were built in Casamance, and protectorate treaties allowed for the control of the Senegal Valley despite the strong resistance of El Hadj Omar Tall (attack on Medina, then retreat to the east to build an independent state).

Colonial expansion was accelerated after 1876; the aim was to reach the Niger River, which implied total control of Senegal. The military campaigns were met with violent internal resistance: Maba Diakhou Ba tried to unify the countries north of the Gambia and Lat Dior Diop in the Cayor; Alboury Ndiaye and Mamadou Lamine Drame, on the Upper River and in the Boundou, opposed the colonial penetration with weapons. In Casamance, resistance is led by religious leaders such as Fodé Kaba Doumbouya, but it is also the work of forest populations, particularly in Diola and Balant country. The lack of coordination of all the movements and internal rivalries, however, favored external control: in 1891, the conquest was practically over. Then begins the “time of the governors”.

From colonial order to independence

The administrative limits of the colony are fixed. in 1904, after the creation of French West Africa (AOF-1895) and the transfer of the federal capital from Saint-Louis to Dakar (1902) – the latter, detached from Senegal, formed a special territory, Saint-Louis remaining the capital of the country until 1957.

While the construction of the Dakar-Niger railroad favored the spread of groundnuts in the countryside, the increase in production was accompanied by a veritable agricultural conquest in the east of the Wolof country, under the leadership of the Mouride marabouts.

Until 1945, the political organization of Senegal was a perfect illustration of the “colonial order”: from the circle commander to the governor, a hierarchical, authoritarian and unchanging system reigned. Only the natives of the “four communes” (Dakar, Gorée, Rufisque, Saint-Louis) had the privilege of electing their municipal councils and sending a deputy to the French Parliament (Blaise Diagne was elected in 1914). Thus, a Senegalese political class was born, which was to find a place for parliamentary expression after the Second World War with the institutions created by the new colonial policy.

As early as 1945, two Senegalese deputies, Lamine Gueye and Léopold Sédar Senghor, sat in the French Constituent Assembly. In 1946, a Territorial Assembly of Senegal was elected in a single college: it appointed parliamentarians who represented their country and obtained major improvements (freedom of assembly and expression, abolition of forced labor). Political activity was accompanied by the creation of parties distinct from the metropolitan organizations (founding of the Senegalese Democratic Bloc in 1948). while poets, novelists and historians animate an intense cultural life.

Prepared by the framework law of 1956, which strengthened the powers of the Territorial Assembly, the move towards independence was accelerated by the creation of the Community, which included autonomous republics and of which Senegal became a member state after the referendum of 28 September 1958.

Associated within the Federation of Mali since January 1959, Sudan and Senegal requested independence, which they obtained together within the unitary framework on April 4, 1960 (Independence Day). But the Federation of Mali broke up, and on August 20, 1960, the Senegalese Assembly proclaimed the country’s independence.

Léopold Sédar Senghor was elected President of the Senegalese Republic on September 5, 1960. He was re-elected on February 28, 1978 and resigned on December 31, 1980. Abdou Diouf, who succeeded him, was elected President on 27 February 1983 and re-elected on 21 February 1993. The new president, Abdoulaye Wade, by winning the March 19, 2000 election became the third head of state in Senegal.

From Iba Der Thiam and Mbaye Guèye, Atlas du Sénégal, Jeune Afrique edition, 2000.