From the colonial communalization movement in 1872 to the establishment of rural communities in 1972: ten decades of urban decentralization and local development in Senegal

Examining the trajectory of decentralization and local development in Senegal continues to generate considerable interest. Senegalese historiography teaches that decentralization, at its core, is not foreign to pre-colonial societies. It has endogenous historical roots, although it was driven at the time by a number of factors. Delegated democracy was a distinctive feature of these societies. Suffice it to say that, within these kingdoms, kings were elected by a representative assembly of the society, but could also and above all be dismissed by it. Against a backdrop of the establishment and imposition of colonial power, the native populations, along with the mulattos, fought fiercely for the erection of their localities as full-fledged communes, in the image of the cities of the metropolis which had already acquired this privileged status. Driven by a concern to safeguard their own interests and endowed with solid economic, demographic and social power, the mulattoes entered the urban political arena to put an end to the economic domination of the metropolitan merchants. The colonial municipalization movement initiated in Senegal in 1872 was the overall result of more than two decades of hard-fought struggle by the population to gain autonomous management and the promotion of local freedoms. Senegal’s accession to independence was marked by the generalization of full-fledged communes, the emergence of communes with special status and the birth of rural communities from 1972 with the Administrative, Territorial and Local Reform (RATL). Although the major question of the autonomy of decentralized communities has arisen, successive attempts to implement controlled local development in Senegal have been salutary.

Keywords: colonization, rural communities and communes, decentralization and local development, municipalization, Senegambia, African socialism.