The history of man is believed to go back as far as 350,000 years in the case of Senegal, with remains found that could well be that old.

The area we now know as Senegal has a rich history of archaeological finds, but modern history really starts around 830 A.D. with the Ghana Empire having an influence on the area. The Ghana empire was then superseded by the Mali Empire around 1230 and the Songhai Empire from about 1340 to the late 1500s.

The French are supposed to have arrived as early as the 14th Century, although that date is disputed. We do know that over the next three centuries the French, Dutch and English as well as the Portuguese set up trading posts along the coastline.

By the 17th Century the area was dominated by the slave trade to America and the West Indies along with battles between the French and British for control of the area.

In 1783 the matter was pretty much settled with the Treaty of Versailles returning Senegal to France.

Matters remained much as they were until January 1959 when Senegal and French Sudan (now Mali) merged to form the Mali Federation. The Federation became independent on 20th June 1960 but only lasted a few months and broke up in the August to create the independent states of Senegal and Mali.

In the same month, August 1960, Senegal elected its first president, Léopold Senghor and he ruled with Prime Minister Mamadou Dia until 1962. In that year the rivalry between the two had grown and Mamadou Dia attempted a coup which failed; Dia was subsequently imprisoned.

Senghor went on to rule the country until 1981 when he handed over to his handpicked successor Abdou Diouf. Senghor was the only candidate in the 1963, 1968 and 1973 elections. He was challenged in 1978 by Abdoulaye Wade who took 17.8% of the vote to Senghor’s 82.2%.

From 1960 until 1973 the country was, in effect, a one party state with the Senegalese Progressive Union (later to become the Socialist Party of Senegal) the only legally permitted party. In 1976 that was relaxed and a three party system was brought in which allowed for a socialist party, a Marxist-Leninist party and a Liberal party. That was opened up further to allow a full multi-party system a few years later.

In 1982 Senegal joined with The Gambia to form Senegambia, but the integration was never completed and the union was dissolved in 1989.

Meanwhile, Diouf went on to rule from 1981 until 2000. He won the 1983 election with 83.45% of the vote, then 1988 with 73.20% and in 1993 with 58.4%. In the 2000 election Abdou Diouf was defeated in an open election by Abdoulaye Wade in the second round.

Wade won with 58.49% of the vote to Diouf’s 41.51%. It was Wade’s fifth attempt at becoming president. Wade went on to win the 2007 presidential election with 55.9% of the vote.

The President is elected by popular vote for a five year term.

The unicameral National Assembly has 150 seats with 90 members elected by direct popular vote and 60 elected by proportional representation from party lists to serve five-year terms. There was a Senate but this was scrapped in 2012.

The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2016 places Senegal at joint 64th out of 176 countries with a CPI 2016 score of 45 (where 100 is least corrupt).