Senegal: Background and U.S. Relations [March 25, 2011]   [open pdf - 280KB]

"Senegal is a small, Francophone nation with a population of 13 million, located on West Africa's Atlantic coast. It has experienced steady, if limited, economic growth in recent years, but remains one of the world's least developed countries. Over 90% of Senegal's population is Muslim, the majority of whom adhere to an indigenous Sufi order. A semi-arid country in Africa's Sahel region, Senegal has struggled with food insecurity and the impact of global climate change. Although Senegal is a secular democracy and enjoys relative stability by regional standards, recent political trends have raised concerns among analysts and policy makers. President Abdoulaye Wade (pronounced 'wahd'), in office since 2000, was initially credited with expanding civil liberties, liberalizing the economy, bolstering government health and education services, and negotiating a landmark peace accord in the restive southern Casamance region. He was returned to office in 2007 in an election that the State Department termed 'open, peaceful, and highly competitive.' However, Wade's reputation has since been marred by his increasingly unilateral exercise of power, along with reports of rising corruption, nepotism, and restrictions on civil liberties. The president, who is in his 80s, has announced plans to run for a third term in 2012, which may require a constitutional amendment. Public unrest has escalated over government policies and stagnant living conditions, and in March 2011, the government accused a group of opposition and civil society activists of organizing a coup attempt. Opposition groups rejected the allegations as politically motivated. Violence has also increased in Casamance since mid-2009, despite the previously successful 2004 peace deal."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, R41369
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