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Senegal - Military Personnel

Almost all recruits entering the service in the 1970s were volunteers. During the early 1970s an estimated 1,000 men per year were allowed to enlist and were sent to a fort near Saint-Louis for basic training. Of about 950,000 males between fifteen and forty-nine years of age, possibly half could be considered capable of military service in a major emergency, but many would fail peacetime physical examinations.

Many of the enlisted men in the national forces during the 1960s were also veterans of colonial service. As Senegal moved toward independence, French and Senegalese leaders had arranged for the transfer of African units from the colonial forces to the control of the new national government. Most of the troops transferred under this agreement, a part of the 1960 Accord on Cooperation in Matters of Defense, were men who had had considerable training and experience under French leadership. They formed a nucleus of small but experienced units.

Legislation authorizing increased personnel strength was enacted, but total active military strength remained under 2,790 men for several years. Subsequent increases to about 6,000 men by 1973 consisted almost entirely of volunteers. France continued to provide technical advisers, equipment, assistance with training, and other forms of military aid.

Recruitment officers were highly selective. Most of them accepted were between eighteen and twenty-two years of age, and over 80 percent were able to read and write. More than half of the new recruits were from the Wolof ethnic group, which had been known for centuries as a source of good soldiers. Usual periods of service were set forth in a law revised in June 1970. Active service for o!unteers was for five years unless theywere shifted to a ready reserve before the end of the tour. This five-year period was to be followed by twenty years in reserve status, during which time the men were subject to recall. The law provided that special regulations could be applied to noncommissioned officers, reserve officers, and fathers of large families.

Young men accepted for military service generally benefited both physically and educationally. These factors contributed to an excess of volunteers throughout the decades folloiwng independence, which made extensive use of the draft laws unnecessary. Volunteers initially included many veterans of the French forces in Africa during the pre-independence period, men who were in most cases well qualified for further service or for cadre duties and who accepted the less desirable aspects of military service with little complaint.

In line with the French policy followed by Senegal's military leaders, troop training continued to be thorough. Recruits received basic training and comprehensive individual training; units had continuing on-the-job instruction; and selected soldiers received specialist training. Under guidance from French advisers, they received much the same instruction given to French troops, and the quality of the training was generally good.

Noncommissioned officers were trained in a school opened in Kaolack (Sine-Saloum Region) in 1971. The standard course for most entrants was eighteen months in length. Gendarmerie personnel and trainees for certain civil service positions were also sent to this school. Non-commissioned officers received specialized training in France for assignments in the air force or the navy and for support duties in communications, medical, or ordnance units.

By the mid-1960s most command positions were held by Senegalese, although various units still had French advisers. Many of the Senegalese officers had held commissions in the French overseas forces. All were products of French schooling or training; some had graduated from the Saint-Cyr military academy, and others had attended schools for nonregular officers in metropolitan France. Candidates for such schools had been selected from military or civilian volunteers who had successfully completed a course of required preparatory training given at local instruction centers for elementary preparation.

Many noncommissioned officers during the first years after independence were career men who had enlisted originally as regulars in the colonial forces or reenlisted after completion of their required military service. Selected on the basis of performance and demonstrated leadership, they had been seasoned on the job, and some had attended technical schools. Other noncommissioned officers who had been transferred to inactive status were recalled for further duty in the national army during the first few years of independence. They were in fact the primary source for filling the few vacancies that occurred and became a mainstay of the Senegalese military structure.

In the 1970s many future officers were drawn from the military preparatory school, but others came from other high schools in Senegal, from the University of Dakar, or from the ranks of enlisted men and non-commissioned officers. Officers received much of their advanced training in France at the academies for French officers, such as Saint-Cyr and Saumur. Others were sent to schools in Morocco and in theMalagasy Republic. In some years as many as 100 Senegalese military men, including noncommissioned officers and technical specialists as well as officers, were attending various military training courses in France.

Unit training up to battalion level was enhanced by periodic tactical field exercises. During the 1960s a few sizable unit training exercises had been held in Sine-Saloum Region, which offered good terrain for learning basic tactics and field engineering. A large-scale maneuver was held in Casamance Region in January 1971 involving members of all components and services. The activity was concentrated in southern,and southwestern Casamance, an area of forests, swamps, and farmland. It constituted a show of force and a demonstration of Senegal's determination to defend the area against border crossings by the forces of Portuguese Guinea, it was also a useful large-scale training exercise and an opportunity to analyze unit performance.

Most military units were at bases originally used b French forces where facilities ranged from fair to very good. Most barracks for un-married men were adequate, and family housing was available for career officers and noncommissioned officers. In general, housing compared favorably with what equivalent income groups would find in local civilian housing areas.

Troops received an adequate diet based on typical Senegalese staple foods. Conditions of service remained similar to patterns established by the French in the earlier colonial forces. The daily routine was often arduous, and discipline was strict. On the other hand, service benefits included medical care, annual leave, and travel allowances; recreation programs and facilities were available; and career servicemen could look forward to retirement income.

In 2007, the Senegalese Armed Forces opened recruitment to women. In June 2006, a presidential decree authorized "exceptional and temporary" recruitment Of female personnel in the gendarmerie. In October 2006, the first 50 female recruits began training at the school of the national gendarmerie of Ouakam, in Dakar. They accounted for 9% of the students in this promotion. In 2008, they completed their training And were assigned to territorial brigades in Dakar, Kaolacks, Saint-Louis and Thiès. New contingents of 50 women each began training in 2008 and 2009.

The average salary of a Senegalese soldier ranges from 80,000 CFA for non-commissioned members to 250,000 CFA (€ 375) for non-commissioned officers at the end of their careers, making them one of the best paid professions in Senegal. The fate of the drafted is unenviable with a balance close to the 5000CFA per month (7,5 €). The average salary of a Senegalese soldier ranges from 80,000 CFA for non-commissioned members to 250,000 CFA (€ 375) for non-commissioned officers at the end of their career, making it one of the highest paid professions in Senegal.

The number of Senegalese soldiers killed in fighting in the Casamance since the 1980s is "several hundred" according to official sources, and "several thousand" according to the Mouvement des forces démocratiques de Casamance (MFDC), Democratic Forces of Casamance Movement independentists. The subject being taboo in Senegal, these figures remain indisptue. It is forbidden to Senegal to have an opinion on the Casamance issue under pain of serious reprisals.

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