Diouf, Abdou


Diouf, Abdou
▪ 1994

      One might have thought that being head of a fractious West African state would be a tall order, but Senegal's 1.96-m (6-ft 4-in) president, Abdou Diouf, had shown for more than a decade that he had the stature for the job. Reelected to his third successive term in March 1993, Diouf was a man in the mold of the new African statesman. He seemed less comfortable with the rough-and-tumble of party politics than with the steady security of the bureaucracy, where, as a protégé of Senegal's longtime president, poet and statesman Léopold Sédar Senghor, he got his start in government. West Africa magazine pointed out that a number of French politicians, such as Valéry Giscard d'Estaing and Jacques Chirac, began their political careers in government administration as well. Diouf projected a style of modesty and sincerity that masked a determination—and probably ambition—of steel. He built his distinguished career upon an image of a supertechnocrat and new-style African democrat.

      Diouf was born on Sept. 7, 1935, in Louga, northern Senegal, the son of a postman. He was a member of the Serer ethnic community and a devout Muslim. He read the Qur`an and attended the well-known Lycée Faidherbe in St. Louis, then still the capital of Senegal, later studying law and political science in the law faculty of the University of Dakar. In 1958 he went to Paris and studied law at the Sorbonne. Shortly after his return home in 1960, Diouf joined the civil service, and over the next four years, he was appointed to a succession of posts: regional governor, secretary-general to the government (a key post that he took over at the remarkably young age of 29 and held for three years), and minister of planning and industry. He quickly established a reputation for fair-mindedness when he oversaw the liberalization of the political system. On Feb. 28, 1970, Diouf became the country's first prime minister, a post that had only just been created through a change in the constitution. He retained that position for 11 years and upon the retirement of President Senghor and in accordance with the constitution, he succeeded to the presidency. He was elected in his own right two years later, was reelected in 1988, and won a third term in the multiparty elections in 1993.

      Diouf gained international prominence as a delegate to the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in 1983, when he played a key role at the June 1983 summit meeting, and as that organization's chairman in 1985-86, when his decisive leadership and moderation restored confidence in that troubled body. He served a second term as OAU chairman in 1992-93 and he also served as chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Islamic Conference, and the G-15 nations. With problems mounting at home, however, it seemed likely that Abdou Diouf would be concentrating his quite considerable talents on the political situation in Dakar for the remainder of his seven-year term as president. (COLIN LEGUM)

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▪ president of Senegal
born Sept. 7, 1935, Louga, Senegal

      politician who was president of Senegal from 1981 to 2000.

      Diouf, the son of a postman, was a member of the Serer people and a devout Muslim. He attended the well-known Lycée Faidherbe in Saint-Louis, then capital of Senegal, and the University of Dakar. In 1958 he went to Paris and studied law at the Sorbonne. Shortly after his return home in 1960, Diouf joined the civil service and was appointed to a succession of posts, including regional governor (1961–62), secretary-general to the government (1964–65), and minister of planning and industry (1968–70). On Feb. 28, 1970, Diouf, a member of the Socialist Party, became prime minister, a post that had just been reinstated through a change in the constitution. He retained the position for 11 years, and, upon the retirement of President Léopold Senghor (Senghor, Léopold) and in accordance with the constitution, Diouf became president in 1981.

      As president, Diouf stressed cooperation with other African countries. In the early 1980s he oversaw the creation of Senegambia, a loose confederation between The Gambia and Senegal that existed between 1982 and 1989. He gained national prominence as a delegate to the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in 1983, playing a key role at the June 23 summit meeting, and as that organization's chairman in 1985–86, when his decisive leadership and moderation restored confidence in the troubled body. He served a second term as OAU chairman in 1992–93, and he was also chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Islamic Conference, and the G-15 nations.

      After the 1988 elections, which Diouf easily won, charges of fraud led to violent protests. A state of emergency was declared, and Abdoulaye Wade, leader of the Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS), was briefly imprisoned. Unrest continued, however, as the country faced a faltering economy, border tensions with Mauritania, and fighting by Casamance separatists. In the March 2000 elections Diouf was defeated by Wade, thus ending the Socialist Party's 40-year rule of Senegal.

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Universalium. 2010.

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