Senegal Independence Day: Facts, History, and Celebrations

Last updated on September 20th, 2023 at 09:17 pm

April 4th marks Independence Day for millions of Sengalese at home and abroad. Also called Independance Du Senegal or National Day, this national holiday commemorates the struggle for freedom.

Every year on April 4th, the people of Senegal enjoy fireworks, parades, dancing, and delicious food on Independence Day.


All of us at Remitly would love to wish everyone a Happy Independence Day! Whether you are at home in Senegal or living abroad, this is a day to celebrate.

Before we get into some of the most common ways people in Senegal enjoy Independence Day, let’s review the reason for the season.

Senegal Independence Day

A Brief History of Senegal Independence Day

Since the 15th century, the West African region today known as Senegal has acted as a significant point of trade for European powers. In the 1600s, France already had control of Dakar, which was used primarily for the slave trade.

But this colonial power, in particular, had ambitions to expand its empire. Throughout the 1850s, France began to expand its territory by taking over local kingdoms. While different Sengalese factions resisted French occupation, little changed until the late 1950s.

In 1959, Senegal and what was then known as French Sudan decided to join forces. These two regions merged and created the Mali Federation. As a result, the Mali Federation signed an agreement with France.

Despite gaining power from France, organizing an internal administration became difficult. In 1960, the Mali Federation broke apart into two independent nations – Senegal and the Republic of Mali.

The first president was poet and politician Léopold Sédar Senghor, who ruled until 1980. Briefly, the country joined with Gambia to create the Senegambia Confederation, under the leadership of Abdou Diouf. This lasted until 1989.

6 Facts About Senegal Independence Day Celebrations

1. Cultural celebrations

This national holiday is celebrated with much fanfare by the people of Senegal. On Independence Day, citizens enjoy dancing and listening to the Senegalese mbalax music. It’s also common to enjoy popular Sengalese dishes, such as thieboudienne.

2. The national flag-rising ceremony

Every year, Senegal commemorates its freedom struggle by raising the national flag of the Republic of Senegal. This ceremony takes place in the capital city of Dakar, which happens to be the westernmost point of Africa.

3. Quality time with friends and family

Since Independence Day is also a public holiday, many Sengalese choose to relax at home with their loved ones.

4. Parades and festivities

In addition to raising the flag, there are typically military parades and fairs. the people of Senegal also take special care to decorate with lights and the Senegalese flag. Many also enjoy singing or listening to the Senegalese national anthem, Pincez Tous vos Koras, Frappez les Balafons. In English, this translates to “The Red Lion.”

Senegal Independence Day

5. The reason for April 4th

Senegal declared itself an independent country on June 20th, 1960. So why is Independence Day celebrated on April 4th? This is because the June 20th date deals with the Mali Federation, not the current country of Senegal. April 4th, 1960 is when Senegal signed the transfer of power agreement with France, so that is why this date was chosen as Senegalese Independence Day.

6. The national flag

The Senegalese flag was adopted in 1960, just after Independence. Despite small tweaks over the years, the symbolism has remained the same:

  • Green represents Islam, the main religion in Senegal.
  • Yellow symbolizes wealth and prosperity.
  • Red refers to the sacrifices made for freedom.
  • The star is used to represent unity.

At the same time, the three colors used in the Sengalese flag are also used across Africa. These colors also represent unity among the African nations.

7. The first African movie

Did you know that one of the first movies made in Africa by a Black African was in Senegal? The film, Barom Sarret, “The Wagoner” in English, is a short 20-minute film by Senegalese director Ousmane Sembène that takes place in the aftermath of independence.

Senegal Independence Day Celebrations in 2022

  • Since Independence Day is a public holiday, most public and private businesses are closed. Many schools have a 14-day vacation during this time.
  • Festivities for Independence Day normally begin on the evening of April 3rd, when families go out to buy new clothes, visit friends, and buy flags.
  • Every year there is a parade at Avenue of General DeGaulle in Dakar.
  • The president normally gives a speech to the people of Senegal on this day.

About Remitly

As we approach Senegal’s Independence Day, some Senegalese still can’t travel to see family and friends because of COVID-19 restrictions. So Remitly is here if you need to send money to Senegal or over 100 countries quickly and safely.

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