I went downtown Dakar to collect some paperwork and saw the Place de L’Independence in a flurry of activity. Senegal will be celebrating 55 years of independence from France on Saturday, April 3. I did a bit of research and learned a couple things about its history.
- Senegal was part of the Mali Federation just after its independence in April 1960. Three months later it pulled out. Leopold Senghor became its first president. He was a poet and also the first African to be a member of the Academie Francaise ( hat eminent body of learned mortals in France who decide on all matters related to the French language). The international airport in Dakar is named after him.
- In 1982 Senegal and Gambia got together and formed a confederation called…wait for it ……. the Senegambian Federation. The idea was to combine military and security forces. That same year a separatist movement in Casamance, the southern region of Senegal (bordering Gambia) started. Seven years later the Senegambian Confederation was dissolved.
- In 2013 the Senegalese arrested Chadian president Hissene Habre in Dakar and put him on trial for crimes against humanity committed under his rule. He is accused of killing 40,000 of his own people and torturing 200,000 in the eight years he was in power. He is still in custody in Senegal.
I thought it would be interesting to look at Senegal’s ex-confederation buddies Mali and Gambia to see how they are doing on their own. Mali is unstable and struggling at the moment fighting separatists in the northern Mali. The Touareg want their independence in the North of the country. Gambia is reeling under a crazy president who claimed to have developed a herbal cure for Aids (really!) and wants to become King of Gambia and of course……. there is no freedom of speech.
Well done Senegal for choosing your own path. Well done for developing a stable West African country where the rule of law is effective. Well done for recognizing that your neighbours needed grow at their own pace and deal with their own issues. All the best for the future!