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Early European Presence

French Colony

Autonomous Republic



The Senegalese Armed Forces




Air Force







The Toucouleur people, among the early inhabitants of Senegal, converted to Islam in the 11th century, although their religious beliefs retained strong elements of animism. In medieval times, parts of Senegal belonged to the empires of Mali, Ghana and Songhai. The Portuguese had some stations on the banks of the Senegal River in the 15th century, and the first French settlement was made at St.-Louis in 1626. Gorée Island became a major center for the Atlantic slave trade through the 1700s, and millions of Africans were shipped from there to the New World. From 1758 until 1779 and again from 1809 - 1816 Senegal was occupied by the British. The French made it part of French West Africa in 1895. In 1946, together with other parts of French West Africa, Senegal became an overseas territory of France.

As a result of the Loi Cadre passed by the French National Assembly on 23 June1956, which was a first step to the forming of the Communauté Française, Senegal became an autonomous  republic on 25 November 1958.

In January 1959, Senegal and the French Sudan merged to form the Mali Federation, which became fully independent on 20 June 1960, as a result of the independence and the transfer of power agreement signed with France on  4 April 1960. Due to internal political difficulties, the Federation broke up on 20 August 1960. Senegal and Soudan (renamed the Republic of Mali) proclaimed independence. Léopold Senghor, internationally known poet, politician, and statesman, was elected Senegal's first president in August 1960.




Early European Presence


Even when the Portuguese had some settlements in Senegal in the early days of the development of the Portuguese Seaborne Empire, no padrão’s like in some other settlements of the Portuguese have been found.

In the 17th and 18th centuries the Senegal settlements were exploited by many different  French companies. These were: from 1626 the Copmpagnie Normande de Sénégambia; from 1658 the Compagnie du Cap Vert et du Sénégal; from 1664 the Compagnie des Indes Occidentales; from 1672 the Compagnie de Sénégal; from 1682 the Compagnie d’Afrique; from 1684 until 1692 the Compagnie de Guinée; from 1710 the Compagnie de Rouen and from 1718 until 1758 the Compagnie des Indes Orientales.

Of these companies the heraldry of the Compagnie des Indes Occidentales and of the Compagnie des Indes Orientales  is known. The study of the seals and arms of the other companies must remain an interesting task for the future.


As there was a civil administration in the time of the British Occupations of 1758-‘79 and 1809 -’16 of Senegal, it may be supposed that the British royal achievement was used then. No proof of this assumption can be produced.[1]


French Colony



It is supposed that until French West Africa became an overseas territory in 1946, its heraldry was the same as the heraldry of its motherland.

Only in 1948 a specific symbol for Afrique Occidentale Française appears. This is the head of a slender horned gazella  (Gazella leptocerus - Bovidæ) which was printed on the local coins.


Autonomous Republic


For the Autonomous Republic which could be founded as a consequence of the Loi Cadre of summer 1956 an achievement was designed by the French heraldist Suzanne Gauthier. It was:




Arms: Parted by a fess wavy Argent, charged with a bend sinister couped Sable; the chief parted per pale Azure and Gules, a sailing ship, sails furled Argent; the base Argent, a pile reversed Vert per pile reversed Sable the last charged with a spade Or.

Crest: A rising sun radiant Or.

Supporters: A white and a black mermaid, armed with a tetradent, rising from waves of the sea Azure and Argent.

Title: SÉNÉGAL on a ribbon in chief.


The upper part of the arms is the coat of arms of the city of Dieppe from which the French mariners sailed to settle in Senegal. This part, in the French colors, symbolises France. The fess wavy with the bend sinister couped symbolizes the river Senegal and the island of  St. Louis. The green pile symbolizes Cap Vert, protruding in the Atlantic. The golden spade in the black pile symbolizes the ancient and actual wealth of Senegal: gold and groundnuts. The lower part of the arms is for Senegal.

The rising sun symbolizes the prominent place of Senegal in French West Africa

The two mermaids, with the tetradents, used in Senegalese coastal fishery, symbolize the importance of the sea for the country.


The Autonomous Republic was accepted by referendum of 25 November 1958 and lasted only a month. It is not known if this achievement has ever been in official use. [2]



20.VI.1960 - present


At the day of the proclamation of independence a presidential- and a state seal were adopted.

The motto and flag are determined in the first article of the Constitution. In this article it is provided that the seal and the national hymn will be determined by law. A coat of arms is not mentioned.


The presidential seal of the Republic shows a lion statant guardant and a five pointed star with four rays. It has as a legend: é RÉPUBLIQUE DU SENEGAL é un peuple • un but • une foi.



Presidential Seal of Senegal


The lion is an almost universal symbol of power in Africa. In some other parts of the continent its function is accomplished by another feline: the panther. As such the lion was known in pre-colonial times by different ethnic groups in Senegal as a royal symbol. On the presidential seal the lion has also the meaning of a symbol of power, in this case the power of the president as laid down in the third chapter of the Constitution.


Some moment between 1960 and 1965 this seal was used for the design of a national coat of arms.[3] This was surrounded by a garland and a ribbon with the motto as follows:


Achievement of the Republic of Senegal 1960 - 1965.



Arms: Purpure, a lion statant guardant Or on a hill Vert, in dexter chief a five-pointed star with four rays Vert.

Garland: Branches of olive Vert.

Motto: UN PEUPLE UN BUT UNE FOI in golden lettering on a ribbon Vert.


It is not known if this achievement was ever official, nor is the exact design known.



Seal of State of Senegal.


The seal of state shows a baobab tree within the legend éRÉPUBLIQUE DU SENEGALé Au Nom du Peuple Senegalais.


The baobab (Adansonia digitata - Malvacæa) is the symbol of the territory of Senegal. It is a typical representative of the local flora. Groups of centuries-old baobab trees are the centre of many old villages.

The baobab tree also plays an important role in peasant economy as it provides valuable fruit and leaves for use as leaf vegetable. The trunk supplies strong fibres.


The baobab-tree is also in the centre of the seals of the lower administrative institutions


Art. 2 of the decree N° 60-26 du 10 octobre 1960 stipulates:


“Les sceaux, timbres et cachets des grands corps de l’Etat, des Ministères, des cours et tribunaux, des Notaires, de toutes les administrations et autorités publiques porteront pour type le baobab tel qu’il est figuré sur le sceau de l’Etat et est figuré sur le sceau de l’Etat et pour légende «République du Sénégal» et le timbre de l’administration ou de l’autorité publique pour laquelle ils seront employés.”


(The seals, stamps and signets of the High Colleges of State, the Ministries, of the courts and tribunals, the notaries, of all administrations and public authorities have as their charge a baobab tree, the same as on the Seal of State and is on the Seal of State, and have as a legend «République du Sénégal» and the name of the administration or public authority by which it is used.)

An example of such a seal, but at variance with the decree of 1960,  is the seal of the General Staff of the Army as illustrated below.


The National Arms


A national coat of arms was adopted in December 1965. Again it was designed by the heraldist Suzanne Gauthier. [4] It is:


Arms: Parted per pale, the first Gules a lion rampant Or, the second Or, a baobab-tree proper and in base a fess wavy Vert.

Crest: A five-pointed star Vert.

Order: The star of the Ordre National du Lion

Motto: UN PEUPLE • UN BUT • UNE FOI on a white ribbon

Garland: Two palm-leaves Argent.


ð see illustration in the head of this essay.


In the coat of arms the lion is the symbol of presidential power, the baobab-tree the symbol of the territory of Senegal and the fess wavy the symbol of the river Senegal. The star is a symbol of the republic, and the motto is the symbol of the Senegalese people.

The Ordre National du Lion was founded in 1960. The president of the republic is its Grand Master.


The parts of the achievement define the Senegalese nation.


The combination of the symbol of the head of state and a territorial symbol was invented in mediæval heraldry in the 13th century. [5] A well-known example is the arms of Charles I of Sicily and Jeruzalem who combined his family arms with the arms of Jeruzalem in a parti. Fourteenth century examples are the arms of Hungary (per pale of Arpad and Hungary) and of Richard III (per pale of Plantagenet and England). In German heraldry the arms of the ruler were usually added on an escutcheon in the centre of the arms (in nombril point).


The Senegalese parti may well mean that Senegal is a presidential republic like France and the United States.




The emblem of the Armed Forces







The symbol, the arms and the seal of the General Staff of the Armies

The symbol consists of the star of the army, the anchor of the navy and a vulture with a thunderbolt for the air force. The vulture is probably Rüppels Vulture (Gyps rüppeli - Accipitridæ), the largest vulture of Africa and living in a strip of land from Senegal to Somalia.







Air Force




The arms of the Supreme Command of the Gendarmerie

The arms are: Azure, a sword per pale charged with a burning grenade Argent. On the shield, within a steel bordure, is a 16th-century helmet to the dexter. Around it is a garland of oak and below a listel with the title SENEGAL.

The design of the emblem is borrowed from the emblem of the French gendarmerie, designed by Robert Louis and Captain Besand and introduced in 1948.



© Hubert de Vries 2009.03.18

[1]   See:  The Life of Major Worge, Chapter III.

[2]   Archivum Heraldicum, 1956 pp. 10-11.

[3]   I found this achievement in the Rumanian “Mic Dicţionar Enciclopedic” of 1972, based on the Petit Larousse.

[4]  Archivum Heraldicum, 1966 p. 13.

[5] The combination in itself however, is much older. This can be seen in the winged sun of ancient Egypt which consists of a sun as a symbol of the empire and two cobras as a pharaonic symbol. The wings symbolize the mandate of heaven. Such symbols are also known from ancient Mesopotamia.

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