A republic of West Africa bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on the W, Mali on the E, Mauritania on the N, and Guinea and Guinea-Bissau on the S. Senegal was formerly the center of French West Africa, and its capital city of Dakar was the commercial and administrative hub of the French African empire.
The first Europeans to reach the region were the Portuguese, who in the mid-15th century established several factories here, as did the French in 1638 and then briefly the Dutch. The British captured the then French posts during the Seven Years’ War of 1759 to 1763, and again during the Napoleonic Wars. French influence steadily increased, until Senegal officially became a colony in 1895.
In 1945 Senegal became a republic within the French Community, led by President Leopold Senghor.
A brief union with the Sudanese Republic as the Federation of Mali lasted from 1959 to 1960, after which Senegal became an independent state.
Senghor continued to be the dominant figure in the country and maintained close ties with France. He also kept a tight rein on internal politics. Its economy, resting almost entirely on peanut production, was devastated by the great sub-Saharan drought of 1973; and many thousand s died from starvation. Senegal tried to diversify its agricultural output with U.S. Rassistance.
In 1979 ground was broken for a threenation, $550 million project to harness the Senegal River for power and irrigation, in an attempt to provide a long-term solution to the country’s continuing economic problems. In 1981, Senghor, who remained head of the Socialist Party, yielded the presidency to Abdou Diouf and Senegal joined with Gambia to form the new nation of Senegambia. This confederation was dissolved in 1989. Diouf was reelected in 1988 and 1993, but was defeated in a runoff election by Abdoulaye Wade of the Senegalese Democratic Party in 2000. From 2000 through 2004, a separatist movement in Casamance in the south part of the country below the Gambia has been in armed revolt.