In a historical approach to the conflicts in Africa, one can distinguish certain outstanding sequences. The first sequence, corresponding to the precolonial period, was characterized by the birth and development of kingdoms and empires of limited scopes whose peaceful coexistence could be disrupted by violent conflicts caused by the whims of conquest and domination. Just like the wars between nations in Europe before the two World Wars, these conflicts resembled, at their core, tribal considerations.

A second sequence encompasses the period of relative stability the continent experienced, despite the colonial imposition of geographic divisions that would one day spawn a wealth of conflicts. Indeed, the Berlin Congress of February 1885 was devoted to the Balkanization of the African continent, the parceling out of territories and the separation of people according to borders that were fixed along the interests of the colonizers, and without heed to local societies. This arbitrary construction of national boundaries constituted a principal source of post-independence border conflicts despite the Congress’s preoccupation with stabilization of the continent. When the Organization of African Unity (OAU) was established in 1963, it adopted the principle of the intangibility of borders, thus challenging the inherited character of colonization.

The third sequence came with the independence of African nations, when, as a direct product of the divisions created by those at the Congress of Berlin, cross-border territorial claims inevitably generated conflict. The principle of respecting national borders was fragile due to the artificial character of these borders, which rarely reflected the preexisting social and cultural structures established by locals. Often, members of the same family would in fact find themselves divided between two countries because of this colonial residue. Furthermore, the East-West Cold War antagonism of the period often aggravated these conflicts. Some of these confrontations were thus rather “inter-official wars by procurement,” molded through the balancing mechanisms of power and wholly controlled by the instigating powers.

The fourth sequence saw conflicts of the internal type: tribal wars, armed struggles for control of wealth and access to or maintenance of capacity. recurrence of “conflicts surrounding the ballot box” illustrated the weakness of democracy in Africa. With independence, the colonial states yielded to numerous, hermetically-scaled single parties. Those bold enough to engage in political opposition were faced with only two possibilities: exile or the creation of armed movements.  is “democratic vacuum” was characterized by remarkable features: the smothering of public freedom, farcical electoral exercises, and electoral fraud. As a result, African leaders faced a host of external pressures— the growing international perception that Africans were dependent on government aid or the strongly diplomatic messages from global figures like French President François Mitterand, for instance—that highlighted and attempted to combat the vice of the single party system. A period of “national conferences” then appeared as a prelude to, and progressive phasing-in of, the multi-party system in the eighties.

Today, it is impossible to deny my particular interest in the consolidation of peace and creation of lasting development in Africa.  The Senegalese experience shows that in Africa, it is wholly possible to politically succeed and achieve one’s goals with the ballot box and not with weapons—provided that both sides show a high degree of restraint and leadership.  The Senegalese election and subsequent development efforts give hope to the idea that a framework of democratic accountability can bring about a stronger, more successful Africa. Indeed, the objectives of peace and lasting development cannot be attained without well-rooted institutions of democracy.

Peace in African countries

Contrary to widely-held notions that have intensified through unfair publicization, the cause of African peace has greatly advanced these last years.  is is the case in Sierra Leone, which has just organized free and transparent presidential elections.  This is also the case in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in spite of some quarrels, which, in my opinion, will not go much further. In the Ivory Coast, the process of peace has been well underway since theAgreement of Ouagadougou of March 4, 2007 that was concluded under the aegis of President Blaise Compaoré, president-en-exercise of the Economic Community of West African States (CEDEAO).

Similarly, the case of the Ivory Coast is an example of the peaceful arbitration of disagreements by Africans themselves. Let us not forget that after the outburst of conflict in September 2002, it was Senegal, via its foreign minister, whom I had dispatched on the spot in my capacity as president of the CEDEAO, who negotiated and obtained the first cease fire agreement, which helped open the prospect for a peaceful solution. Furthermore, Madagascar might have sunk into civil war after the presidential elections of December 2001 had there not been our mediation, which led to the Agreement of Peace of Dakar of April 18, 2002 between former Malagasy presidents Didier Ratsiraka and Marc Ravalomanana. Finally, and especially, there is the example of Liberia. After several years of bloody conflict, this country not only found peace, but also elected Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first female president in Africa. Africa contains more than fifty countries yet, on the whole, only Somalia, the Comoros, and Sudan continue today to house sustained tension.

Senegal elections

The Senegalese experience is illustrative of Africa’s trend toward peaceful democracy. When, in 1974, I created the first part of legal political opposition in Africa, the Senegalese Democratic Party, I found myself without any allies on a continent dominated by single-party rule. In her doctoral thesis at the Sorbonne in 1975, Christine Dessouches offered extremely interesting background information on this subject: according to her research, President Léopold Sédar Senghor had been determined to recognize my party, because he himself was at the same time an intellectual and a politician accustomed to the democratic system. He had already been, before the independence of Senegal, an elected deputy in the French National Assembly. President Senghor’s trust in me therefore stemmed from a certain intellectual complicity that he knew bound us. He understood that I was not one to encourage outright warfare since I had managed to channel the passion of my most radical militants into nonviolent activity. I can say that in a certain manner, there was between Senghor and myself a kind of division of labor in the management of the Senegalese democracy: he managed the capacity and I managed popular discontent. Moreover, Senghor regularly received me as an opponent, somewhat like the Canadian model. My party brought forth creative contradictions by animating the political debate, the verbal questions, and requests for the establishment of parliamentary boards of inquiry, which were regularly rejected.

The major deviation, however, that Senghor made from the rules of democracy lay in Article 35 of the Senegalese constitution, from which he departed in the arrangement of his succession. His handpicked successor, Prime Minister Abdou Diouf, ascended to power without the obstacle of electoral competition. But since I always said that I would never “Walk on corpses” to get to the Presidential Palace, it was necessary to test the electoral system again and to spend two decades in opposition to President Diouf, as well as a few years of participation in the government, before finally arriving at the first democratic “alternation” in Senegal in March 2000.  Throughout that period of time, I was sent to prison several times. But defending my democratic convictions was worth the price of freedom.  Through such experiences, I have clung to the conviction that it is necessary to know how to forgive and to refuse the temptation of conducting witch hunts.

The opponents in nations where I mediated conflicts were also apt to listen to me because they naturally regarded me as one of their own: as a fellow opposition leader, I could sympathize with and relate to these would-be leaders.

I recognize that in March 2000, President Abdou Diouf surprised his supporters by calling before the formal publication of the results in order to recognize my victory and to cut short any uprising.  e people had clearly decided for political change in Senegal. Diouf’s gesture, it should be acknowledged, was a choice that reflected our democratic instincts.

These experiences in the Senegalese election have been useful to me in my efforts to mediate elsewhere in Africa—Gabon, Togo, former Zaire, the Comoros, Madagascar, Ivory Coast, and Sudan in particular.  The success of a mediation attempt depends greatly on the confidence that the protagonists have in the mediator. Indeed, you have always benefited from the confidence of the Heads of State for whom I intervened, even before my election as president. I believe that such faith has been established in part because of the recognition that the Senegalese opposition model I led was far less evil than other African opposition efforts. The opponents in nations where I mediated conflicts were also apt to listen to me because they naturally regarded me as one of their own: as a fellow opposition leader, I could sympathize with and relate to these would-be leaders.


Development efforts in Senegal

The establishment of the peaceful transition of political power in Senegal has laid the foundations for economic development. Peaceful democratic elections signify political stability, thereby giving domestic and foreign individuals or firms the comfort to invest in the economy. Furthermore, elections are a powerful instigator for economic and social change: by voting for a proponent of reform, the people have given their approval to his or her policies. Elections, political accountability, and development are in natural succession, and one can find examples similar to the Senegalese experience throughout the African region. I am in favor of the Labour Party and market economy. I believe in freedom and work as a source of creativity and personal development. I also believe in the virtue of solidarity as a base of social harmony. It is thus around these paradigms that our development efforts have been articulated as we work to build a liberal-social state in Senegal.

Since my election to the highest office in our land, three key objectives have determined my economic policy: to create quality human resources, to develop infrastructures through the policy of financing major works, and to modernize agriculture. I am convinced that development relies, above all, on the creative genius of men and women. as a country without significant natural resources, we devote 40 percent of our budget to education and training. For me, this expenditure is not a burden but a profitable long-term investment. Our vision relies on the Senegalese bet on the future, yet is informed by the reality of our times. Some statistical data reveals much about our efforts. From 1960, the year of Senegal’s independence, up until 2000, the country only had two universities. Since 2000, however, we have built four new universities. Senegal now has 65 junior high schools, whereas we had only 19 in 2000. Today there are 211 high schools; there were only 35 in 2000.

In addition, we have placed information technology at the heart of the educational system. I have emphasized the use of computers beginning in the lower grades and continuing to university level, because we live today in a society where the most advanced knowledge is disseminated over the internet. I often repeat that information technologies are not a luxury but a formidable chance and shortcut to economic and social development. In adopting such technologies, we will have the opportunity to advance on par with developed countries.

We have made similar strides in the area of infrastructure, developing the Senegalese version of the “New Deal” with our great works projects—roads, ports, airports and railways—weaving a network of transportation routes through the country.  The priority that we have given to infrastructure comes simply from one historical fact: never in the history of humanity has there been an example of development without infrastructure. In crossing Senegal today, it is easy to note that we have a country filled with new building sites, in particular the 70 kilometer Dakar-Thies highway and the new International Blaise Diagne Airport, for which a ground-breaking ceremony was held on April 4, 2007. Located only 45 kilometers from Dakar, this new airport of international standing, which should be finished in three years, exemplifies our break from traditional project financing and reflects on innovation in new financial structures and strategies. The airport project relies on neither the national budget nor on State guarantees; this project has been financed entirely by the private sector.  This transition is clear evidence that Africans can finance infrastructure development projects by calling on international markets. In addition to these major road and airport work projects, we are currently deliberating on seven railroad projects. Our emphasis on the completion of major works has not only drastically improved transportation, but also reduced unemployment by creating thousands of jobs, particularly for young people.

Senegal also aims to modernize and diversify the agriculture sector of the economy. We have already acquired a first shipment of new equipment, including 510 tractors intended for farmers. Innovation lies in our plan called Return toward Agriculture.  This plan involves the collection and retention of rainwater during the winter in order to allow residents of rural zones to fully devote themselves to varied agro-pastoral activities, even in the hottest and most dry season. With the exorbitant cost petroleum products, Senegal has decided to steer itself in the direction of biofuel production in cooperation with private sector partners and investors. The greatest challenge remaining is to end our economic dependence on the importation of rice, of which Senegal is a large consumer. We thus launched a National Program of rice self-sufficiency of 14 billion CFA over a five year period.

Over the last few years, Senegal has reached a growth rate that is regularly higher than 6 percent, although the rate has faltered somewhat because of the economy burden born from the vertiginous rise in the price of oil. Such prices increases necessitated significant budgetary cuts in the social sector in order to subsidize the price of petroleum products so as not to pass this burden onto Senegalese consumers. As a result of our development efforts and high growth rates, the World Bank has regularly given the Senegalese economy positive evaluations and consequently, we continue to attract direct foreign private investment not only from traditional partners but also increasingly diversified ones from Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. Given the tendency to avoid investment in countries at risk, this international confidence stands out as a credible indicator of the performance and potential of the Senegalese economy. 


As the Senegalese experience demonstrates, Africa is building the foundations for democracy and stable development. But while each country individually builds up its capacities through this era of peace, there are many benefits that African states can gain by working together. It is my hope that African countries will learn from each other’s experiences, build links, and mutually labor to promote goodwill and peace on the continent. This cooperation can be used in Sudan to better implement the Security Council’s Resolution 1769 of July 31, 2007, which authorized the creation of a hybrid peace force comprised of the African Union and the United Nations. Senegal, which already has a presence in Darfur as a participant in the African Union peace mission, will also contribute to this hybrid force. I invite those states who have not contributed to do so as well. I will also try to contribute to the resolution of the Sudanese crisis by facilitating dialogue between President Omar al-Bashir and our Western partners, and, on the other hand, encouraging the still reticent armed movements to adhere to the Abuja Peace Agreement on Darfur of May 2006.

We shall do all that we can so that Africa does not fall behind in the 21st century. In these efforts, we hope to encourage African integration and economic and social development. This responsibility falls primarily on individual countries as Africa realizes that development is the essential complement to peace.