Sénégambia Confederation
Senegambia, officially the Senegambia Confederation, was a loose confederation
A confederation in modern political terms is a permanent union of political units for common action in relation to other units. Usually created by treaty but often later adopting a common constitution, confederations tend to be established for dealing with critical issues such as defense, foreign...

 between the West Africa
West Africa
West Africa or Western Africa is the westernmost region of the African continent. Geopolitically, the UN definition of Western Africa includes the following 16 countries and an area of approximately 5 million square km:-Flags of West Africa:...

n countries of Senegal
Senegal , officially the Republic of Senegal , is a country in western Africa. It owes its name to the Sénégal River that borders it to the east and north...

 and its neighbour the Gambia
The Gambia
The Republic of The Gambia, commonly referred to as The Gambia, or Gambia , is a country in West Africa. Gambia is the smallest country on mainland Africa, surrounded by Senegal except for a short coastline on the Atlantic Ocean in the west....

, which is almost completely surrounded by Senegal. The confederation came into existence on 1 February 1982 following an agreement between the two countries signed on 12 December 1981. The federation was intended to promote cooperation between the two countries, but was dissolved by Senegal on 30 September 1989 when the Gambia refused to move closer toward union.


Senegambia, as a political unit, was created by dueling French
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 and English
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

Colonialism is the establishment, maintenance, acquisition and expansion of colonies in one territory by people from another territory. It is a process whereby the metropole claims sovereignty over the colony and the social structure, government, and economics of the colony are changed by...

 forces in the region. Competition between the French and the English began in the 16th century when both started to establish trading centers in the region – with French trade centered on the Senegal River
Sénégal River
The Sénégal River is a long river in West Africa that forms the border between Senegal and Mauritania.The Sénégal's headwaters are the Semefé and Bafing rivers which both originate in Guinea; they form a small part of the Guinean-Malian border before coming together at Bafoulabé in Mali...

 and in the Cap-Vert
Cap-Vert is a peninsula in Senegal, and the westernmost point of the continent of Africa and of the Old World mainland. Originally called Cabo Verde or "Cape Green" by Portuguese explorers, it is not to be confused with the Cape Verde islands, which are some further west...

 region and English trade on the Gambia River
Gambia River
The Gambia River is a major river in West Africa, running from the Fouta Djallon plateau in north Guinea westward through Senegal and The Gambia to the Atlantic Ocean at the city of Banjul...

 (although there was some overlap in their areas of influence). This region became more important for both growing empires because West Africa
West Africa
West Africa or Western Africa is the westernmost region of the African continent. Geopolitically, the UN definition of Western Africa includes the following 16 countries and an area of approximately 5 million square km:-Flags of West Africa:...

 allowed for a convenient way station for trade between Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 and their American
The Americas, or America , are lands in the Western hemisphere, also known as the New World. In English, the plural form the Americas is often used to refer to the landmasses of North America and South America with their associated islands and regions, while the singular form America is primarily...

 colonies and a warehouse for the African Slave Trade
African slave trade
Systems of servitude and slavery were common in many parts of Africa, as they were in much of the ancient world. In some African societies, the enslaved people were also indentured servants and fully integrated; in others, they were treated much worse...

. As colonialism became more and more lucrative, both France and England took greater measures to define their spheres of influence. From 1500 to 1758, the two powers used their naval power to try to remove each other from the region. In 1758, the British were successful in capturing major French trading bases along the Senegal River area and formed the first Senegambia – a crown colony
Crown colony
A Crown colony, also known in the 17th century as royal colony, was a type of colonial administration of the English and later British Empire....

. The unified region collapsed in 1779, when the French recaptured Saint Louis
Saint-Louis, Senegal
Saint-Louis, or Ndar as it is called in Wolof, is the capital of Senegal's Saint-Louis Region. Located in the northwest of Senegal, near the mouth of the Senegal River, and 320 km north of Senegal's capital city Dakar, it has a population officially estimated at 176,000 in 2005. Saint-Louis...

 and burned the major British settlement in the Gambia region, leading to the end of the unified region in 1783.

The Treaty of Versailles (1783) (signed along with the Treaty of Paris
Treaty of Paris (1783)
The Treaty of Paris, signed on September 3, 1783, ended the American Revolutionary War between Great Britain on the one hand and the United States of America and its allies on the other. The other combatant nations, France, Spain and the Dutch Republic had separate agreements; for details of...

 that officially ended the American Revolution) created the current Francophone-Anglophone balance in the region: Saint Louis, l’île de Gorée
Île de Gorée Île de Gorée Île de Gorée (i.e. "Gorée Island"; is one of the 19 communes d'arrondissement (i.e. "commune of arrondissement") of the city of Dakar, Senegal. It is a island located at sea from the main harbor of Dakar ....

, and the Senegal River region were restored to France and the Gambia was left to the British. In the 1860s and 70s both nations began to consider a land trading proposal to unify the region, with the French trading another West African holding for the Gambia, but the exchange was never completed. While the areas were in separate, competing hands, an official border between the French and British Senegambian colonies did not appear until 1889 when the French agreed to accept the current border between the two countries and remove its border trading posts. This choice left the future Senegal (which gained its independence in 1960) and the Gambia (independent in 1965) with a large problem: how to successfully maintain two separate countries in a region with shared yet diverse cultural values and an international border which wedges one country into the middle of the other.

Problems with Senegambia's border

For each country the lock and key border situation has posed unique problems for international relations, especially in trade and control of regions surrounding the Senegal-Gambia border. For both countries one of the greatest problems is the ease with which violence could spread through the region. With shared ethnic communities on both sides of the border, a successful coup in one country could lead to a group of sympathizers in the other, bringing danger to the democratic regimes of both countries. This fear became reality during the 1981 coup attempt to oust President Jawara of the Gambia. Senegal’s pro-Western stance increased its security worries since its neighboring countries might use either the Gambia, secessionists in the Casamance
Casamance is the area of Senegal south of The Gambia including the Casamance River. It consists of Basse Casamance and Haute Casamance...

 region (the region of Senegal south of the Gambian border), or other dissident groups to destabilize the Dakar
Dakar is the capital city and largest city of Senegal. It is located on the Cap-Vert Peninsula on the Atlantic coast and is the westernmost city on the African mainland...

 government. Special threats came from Kwame Nkrumah's
Kwame Nkrumah
Kwame Nkrumah was the leader of Ghana and its predecessor state, the Gold Coast, from 1952 to 1966. Overseeing the nation's independence from British colonial rule in 1957, Nkrumah was the first President of Ghana and the first Prime Minister of Ghana...

Ghana , officially the Republic of Ghana, is a country located in West Africa. It is bordered by Côte d'Ivoire to the west, Burkina Faso to the north, Togo to the east, and the Gulf of Guinea to the south...

, Mali
Mali , officially the Republic of Mali , is a landlocked country in Western Africa. Mali borders Algeria on the north, Niger on the east, Burkina Faso and the Côte d'Ivoire on the south, Guinea on the south-west, and Senegal and Mauritania on the west. Its size is just over 1,240,000 km² with...

, Ahmed Sekou Touré
Ahmed Sékou Touré
Ahmed Sékou Touré was an African political leader and President of Guinea from 1958 to his death in 1984...

's Guinea
Guinea , officially the Republic of Guinea , is a country in West Africa. Formerly known as French Guinea , it is today sometimes called Guinea-Conakry to distinguish it from its neighbour Guinea-Bissau. Guinea is divided into eight administrative regions and subdivided into thirty-three prefectures...

, Guinea-Bissau
The Republic of Guinea-Bissau is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Senegal to the north, and Guinea to the south and east, with the Atlantic Ocean to its west....

, and Muammar al-Qaddafi's
Muammar al-Gaddafi
Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar Gaddafi or "September 1942" 20 October 2011), commonly known as Muammar Gaddafi or Colonel Gaddafi, was the official ruler of the Libyan Arab Republic from 1969 to 1977 and then the "Brother Leader" of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya from 1977 to 2011.He seized power in a...

Libya is an African country in the Maghreb region of North Africa bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad and Niger to the south, and Algeria and Tunisia to the west....

. While some of this worry was speculation on the part of the Dakar government, Senegal would later (towards the end of the Senegambia Confederation) have border skirmishes with Mauritania. After the coup attempt, it became clear that the government’s military forces were not adequate to stop, or prevent, political upheaval. Security of the region was becoming more and more difficult to maintain.

Since the end of colonization, the Senegalese government maintained trade barriers which provided for preferential treatment for French goods imported into the country while the Gambia had virtually no trade barriers. The opposing trade policies fueled a large black market around the Senegal-Gambia border that brought cheaper manufactured goods into Senegal. The black market also caused an export drain into the Gambia. The Senegalese government began to institute a delayed payment system with its groundnut (peanut
The peanut, or groundnut , is a species in the legume or "bean" family , so it is not a nut. The peanut was probably first cultivated in the valleys of Peru. It is an annual herbaceous plant growing tall...

) farms. When farmers sold their harvest to Dakar, they would get a voucher, known as a chit, which they could turn into cash after a three-month waiting period Not wanting to wait for the Senegalese marketing system to pay them, a larger number of farmers began to smuggle
Smuggling is the clandestine transportation of goods or persons, such as out of a building, into a prison, or across an international border, in violation of applicable laws or other regulations.There are various motivations to smuggle...

 their goods to Banjul
-Transport:Ferries sail from Banjul to Barra. The city is served by the Banjul International Airport. Banjul is on the Trans–West African Coastal Highway connecting it to Dakar and Bissau, and will eventually provide a paved highway link to 11 other nations of ECOWAS.Banjul International Airport...

, where the Gambian government paid in cash; by 1990, estimates show that 20% of the Gambian groundnut market was from smuggled Senegalese crops.

Birth of the Confederation

In the short term, the Senegambia Confederation was a pragmatic union based on a mutual security interest. As previously mentioned, the Senegalese government had a fear of national instability caused by uprisings in either the Gambia or the Casamance region. This fear nearly became reality on 30 July 1981 when Gambian leftists attempted a coup d’état against President Sir Dawda Jawara
Dawda Jawara
Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara, GCMG was the first leader of The Gambia, serving first as Prime Minister from 1962 to 1970 and then as President from 1970 to 1994....

. At the request of President Jawara, the Senegalese army entered The Gambia and successfully put down the insurrection. However, this new possibility of forced regime change, so close to home for both Banjul and Dakar, promoted the unification ideas which had been developing in the region. Léopold Sédar Senghor
Léopold Sédar Senghor
Léopold Sédar Senghor was a Senegalese poet, politician, and cultural theorist who for two decades served as the first president of Senegal . Senghor was the first African elected as a member of the Académie française. Before independence, he founded the political party called the Senegalese...

, first President of Senegal, was one of "les trois pères" ("the three fathers") of Negritude
Négritude is a literary and ideological movement, developed by francophone black intellectuals, writers, and politiciansin France in the 1930s by a group that included the future Senegalese President Léopold Sédar Senghor, Martinican poet Aimé Césaire, and the Guianan Léon Damas.The Négritude...

 — a literary and ideologically socialist movement which encourages Africans throughout the Diaspora to embrace their shared culture. Senghor’s belief in Negritude not only informed a sense of the possibility of unification between Senegal and the Gambia, but it seems to have fostered the belief that unification would happen as an organic process. Senegal and the Gambia commissioned a United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 report to study the possible plans and benefits of unification between the two countries in the 1960s. Despite the short-lived union, the Senegambia Confederation was one of the longest-lived African unions of the period. Had it succeeded, it would not only have solved economic tensions between the neighboring countries, but also given new hope to the concept of Pan-Africanism
Pan-Africanism is a movement that seeks to unify African people or people living in Africa, into a "one African community". Differing types of Pan-Africanism seek different levels of economic, racial, social, or political unity...


Confederation's end

Throughout the integration process support came primarily from the two governments and their social elites; neither the Senegalese nor the Gambian publics were really interested in integration. Once the threat of political instability began to dissipate, both sides began to move back to their traditional fears and stereotypes of the other. The Gambian government (and the Gambian people), once the coup was social and politic rear view window of the country, began to fear losing their own power and identity through Senegalese engulfment. Hughes and Lewis, in their Senegambia analysis, list many problems with unions which often lead to failure, which this union shared. In this context, one of the most salient is a pragmatic vs. an ideological foundation for union. Since the union was forged because of mutual security concerns, the Confederation’s momentum began to die once people at all levels of both Senegalese and Gambian government began to move back and move on. This situation is best exemplified in the unilateral removal of Senegalese troops from the Gambia once Senegal was threatened by Mauritania (see Problems with Senegambia's border  above). The main platform on which union had been forged marked the beginning of the end. The official end came on 23 August 1989, when President Diouf decided it was best that the Confederation be placed aside after fruitless talks about a customs union
Customs union
A customs union is a type of trade bloc which is composed of a free trade area with a common external tariff. The participant countries set up common external trade policy, but in some cases they use different import quotas...

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