Foreign policy and defense
Based on geographical map from Digopaul, Senegal is a nation in Western Africa. Its capital city is Dakar. Senegal plays an active role in promoting greater integration and cooperation in West Africa and on the continent as a whole. The relationship with neighboring countries has historically been good. However, the separatist uprising in Casamance in southern Senegal has periodically strained relations with both Gambia and Guinea-Bissau. Senegal has close ties to the old colonial power France.
President Macky Sall (2012–), just like the representatives, advocated close cooperation between the French-speaking countries in West Africa, as well as within the African Union (AU) and the West African cooperation organization Ecowas. Together with Algeria, Nigeria and South Africa, Senegal has initiated a New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad), a strategy aimed at attracting foreign aid as well as direct investment but also to improve political governance on the continent.
- Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Senegal for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.
France has been stationed in the country since colonial times. However, most of them were taken home in 2010 and 2011, according to an agreement signed between Senegal and France in early 2010. In accordance with the agreement, Senegal also took control of two military bases that France had at its disposal. The number of French soldiers was reduced from 1,200 to 300. In 2012, the two countries signed a new comprehensive military cooperation agreement.
During Abdoulaye Wade’s tenure as president (2000–2012), Senegal approached both the United States and China. China broke diplomatic relations with Senegal in 1996, after joining the small number of countries that recognized Taiwan. In the autumn of 2005, Senegal re-established relations with China, after which Taiwan terminated its assistance. With China, Senegal has subsequently entered into several agreements on increased economic cooperation and on trade.
Senegal also cooperates ever closer with countries around the Persian Gulf. The diplomatic relations with Iran were broken in 2011. The cause was Iranian arms shipments to the Gambia, which according to the Senegalese were intended for the Casamance rebels. Relations with Iran were restored in 2013.
Relations with neighboring states
With Gambia, contacts were particularly chilly since Senegambia, a confederation for economic and military cooperation between the two countries, had dissolved in 1989 after seven years. With the confederation, Senegal wanted 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. During the latter part of the 1990s, relations between the countries improved. Collaboration agreements were concluded on both trade and border security.
The contradictions were sharpened again in the 2010s as the fighting escalated in Casamance (see Conflict in Casamance). Senegal accuses Gambia of supporting the separatists, while Gambia in turn accuses Senegal of protecting Gambian regime critics. Both countries have also been in conflict over transport and border control. Senegal needs to be able to transport goods between its two regions through the Gambia, and this traffic generates important revenue to the Gambian state.
Relations deteriorated in 2012 when the Gambia executed two Senegalese prisoners.
In early 2017, the situation changed when Gambia’s long-time leader Yahya Jammeh lost the presidential election but refused to resign. In the ensuing power struggle, Senegal stood on the side of newly elected President Adam Barrow and Senegalese soldiers joined the force sent by the Ecowas regional cooperation organization to Gambia to persuade Jammeh to resign, which he also did. After Barrow was installed as president, he paid a visit to President Sall in Senegal and the countries signed several cooperation agreements. The two leaders spoke of a “new era” in the Senegal-Gambia relationship.
Senegal has also accused neighboring Guinea-Bissau of supporting the separatist guerrilla MFDC and giving rebels a sanctuary. The conflict has also caused refugee flows across borders. The two countries signed a joint border patrol agreement in 2000 to avoid incidents. However, disputes have continued to flare up in the border area, with both MFDC rebels as well as Bissau-Guinea and Senegalese troops involved.
Contacts with Guinea were strained in 2011 when the country’s president Alpha Condé accused both Senegal and Gambia of being involved in an assassination attempt against him. Between March 2014 and January 2015, Senegal shut down land and air relations with Guinea for fear that the contagious viral disease ebola would spread from the severely affected Guinea. Senegal escaped the epidemic with a documented case.
A conflict with Mauritania broke out in 1989, since the dam construction in the border area of the Senegal River tore up old disputes over who has the right to cultivate the land. Tensions also reflected contradictions within Mauritania between this country’s Arab and black population. In both countries, citizens from neighboring countries were attacked, in Mauritania even the black minority. Hundreds of people were killed and tens of thousands were forced to flee (see Population and Languages). The diplomatic relations were broken but resumed in 1992. Senegal contributed in 2009 through the so-called Dakar agreement to mediation following a military coup in Mauritania. The two countries have since strengthened their military cooperation.
The military is well-educated and disciplined, and has no habit of interfering with politics. In addition to the army, the navy and the air force, there is a semi-military police force. France accounts for much of the military’s training and equipment, but support also comes from the United States, China and Germany. Senegal has participated in many international and regional peacekeeping efforts, under the auspices of both the UN and Ecowas and the AU. Since 2013, hundreds of Senegalese soldiers have been deployed in Mali under UN auspices. In 2015, Senegal contributed more than 2,000 soldiers on the part of the government and Saudi Arabia in the conflict against the Hire Believers in Yemen (see Yemen: Current Policy). Voluntary military service for two years applies.
FACTS – DEFENSE
Army: 11 900 men (2017)
The air Force: 750 men (2017)
The fleet: 750 men (2017)
Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 1.9 percent (2017)
Military spending’s share of the state budget: 6.6 percent (2017)