Located in Western Africa, between Mauritania, Mali, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, and the Atlantic Ocean, and surrounding Gambia. Senegal first became an Islamic nation in the 11th century. The Mandingo Empires ruled Senegal for several centuries, but by the 15th century, several European countries vied for the opportunity to colonize the area, among them England, the Netherlands and Portugal. But it was France that gained control of Senegal by 1677, and exploited it as a departure point in the slave trade. In 1959, Senegal briefly merged with French Soudan to form the Mali Federation, and became independent from France. However, the federation broke apart in August of that same year, leaving Senegal completely independent. President Senghor and Prime Minister Mamadou Dia governed together in a parliamentary system for a time. But when a Dia coup was thwarted in December 1962, Senegal adopted a new constitution that increased the power of President. Senghor, who remained in control until his retirement in 1980. He handed power to Abdou Diouf, who did much to reduce government involvement in the economy and helped to create diplomatic relations with other developing nations. In 2000, Diouf was defeated in elections by Abdoulaye Wade, who was able to sign a peace treaty with two separatist factions of the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance. The Untied States is encouraging the government of Senegal to work towards a negotiated settlement and dialogue with the separatists of Casamance.
Lay of the Land: In westernmost West Africa, Senegal is bordered on the north by Mauritania, on the east by Mali, on the south by Guinea and Guinea-Bissau, and on the west by the Atlantic Ocean. The 250-mile tongue of the Gambia lies just across the southern portion of the country. The dry north anticipates the Sahara Desert. Four parallel rivers, for the most part navigable, traverse the central and southern grasslands.
Senegal was originally settled in prehistoric times, but Islam came to the region in the 11th century. Today’s Senegal was part of the three empires of Ghana, Songhai, and Mali. Although the dominant religions of Senegal are Islam and Christianity, traditional religions played an important part in people’s lives in the early periods of Senegal’s history.
The history of the US-Senegal relationship can be traced back to the Transatlantic trade, in which goods and slaves were shipped out of Africa to Americas and Europe. According to economist Nathan Nunn, in The Long-Term Effects of Africa’s Slave Trades, 278,195 slaves were taken from Senegal and shipped across the Atlantic to the Americas.
U.S. imports from Senegal totaled only $6.9 million in 2009. Leading US imports from Senegal included petroleum products ($1.6 million), fish and shellfish ($977,000); and non-textile apparel and household goods ( $873,000). Additionally, U.S. imported $248,000 worth of feedstuff and food grains.
According to the latest U.S. State Department report, human rights problems exist in the following areas: “inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees and prisoners; overcrowded prisons; questionable investigative detention and long pretrial detention; corruption and impunity; limits on freedoms of speech, press, and assembly; domestic violence, rape, sexual harassment of women, and discrimination against women; female genital mutilation (FGM); child abuse; child marriage; infanticide; trafficking in persons; and child labor.”
Henry S. Villard
Appointment: Oct 8, 1960
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 31, 1960
Termination of Mission: Left post Apr 30, 1961
Note: Also accredited to Mauritania; resident at Dakar. Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Feb 6, 1961.
The West African nation of Senegal sent a new ambassador to Washington this summer. Cheikh Niang was appointed to the post as of June 12, and presented his credentials to President Barack Obama on July 30. He succeeded Fatou Danielle Diagne, who served as Senegal’s ambassador to the U.S. starting in March 2010. Niang is serving concurrently as Senegal’s ambassador to Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Panama, and Costa Rica.
A career diplomat, Niang was an English teacher at Senegal’s National School of Administration and Magistracy before joining his country’s diplomatic corps 20 years ago. He served as a spokesman for the Organization of African Unity during the 1990s and then as minister counselor at Senegal’s Mission to the United Nations in New York during the next decade. Other highlights of his diplomatic career include service as consul general in New York from 2007 to 2010 and as ambassador of Senegal to South Africa from 2010 to 2012. Niang has also served as diplomatic adviser to the President of Senegal.
He is married to Aisatta Sall Niang.
Entretien avec Son Excellence Cheikh Niang Ambassadeur du Senegal aux USA (Interview with His Excellency Ambassador of Senegal Cheikh Niang) (by Cheikh Tidiane Mbengue, Sud Quotidien)
Lewis Lukens, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, has served as the U.S. ambassador to Senegal and to Guinea-Bissau since July 11, 2011. As the son of a diplomat, Lukens once lived in Senegal as a child.
Marcia S. Bernicat serves as the US Ambassador to Senegal and Guinea-Bissau. She was confirmed by the Senate on June 5, 2008.