Diouf, Abdou (Senegal)

Reference work entry


Abdou Diouf was Senegal’s first prime minister from 1970–80 and president from 1981–2000. A socialist, he was defeated in the elections of 2000 bringing to an end 40 years of socialist rule.

Early Life

Diouf was born on 7 Sept. 1935 in Louga, Senegal. Schooled in Saint-Louis, he attended the University of Dakar and in 1958 went to the Sorbonne in Paris to study law.

Diouf returned to Senegal in 1960 to take up a civil service post. He was appointed a regional governor the following year and became general secretary to the presidency in 1964. He was minister of planning and industry from 1968–70 when he was nominated prime minister in the government of President Senghor. When Senghor resigned the presidency in 1980, Diouf succeeded him, taking office on 1 Jan. 1981.

Career Peak

Continuing Senghor’s policy of inter-African co-operation, Diouf was instrumental in the establishment of the Confederation of Senegal and Gambia in 1982, an affiliation that lasted for 7 years. He was re-elected president with more than 80% of votes in 1983. Diouf’s international reputation grew particularly with involvement with the Organization of African Unity. He was its president in 1985–86, a post he held again 7 years later. He was also a prominent figure in the Economic Community of West African States, the Group of 15 (a summit group for emerging nations) and the Islamic Conference.

Despite his international stature, Diouf’s tenure was often troubled. In the aftermath of the 1983 elections there were riots by separatists in the Casamance region of the country. Diouf’s re-election in 1988 with more than 73% of votes were challenged by the opposition who accused him of fraud, which led to further rioting. Diouf responded by declaring a state of emergency, during which Abdoulaye Wade (later president and then in opposition) was arrested.

Tensions with neighbouring Mauritania seriously deteriorated in the late 1980s, resulting in an unofficial border war in 1990. Diplomatic relations between the two countries were restored in 1992. Diouf secured another term of office in 1993 but, despite significant international aid, the national economy was crippled and devaluation followed in 1994. In addition, a ceasefire agreed with Casamance separatists in 1993 fell apart 2 years later.

At the elections of March 2000 Diouf was defeated by Abdoulaye Wade, who became head of Senegal’s first non-Socialist government.

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