Ziguinchor (French: [zi.gɛ̃.ʃoʁ]; Wolof: Siggcoor [sigːcɔːr]; Arabic: زيغينكور) is the capital of the Ziguinchor Region, and the chief town of the Casamance area of Senegal, lying at the mouth of the Casamance River. It has a population of 214,874 (2023 census).[1] It is the eighth largest city of Senegal, but is nearly separated from the north of the country by the nation of The Gambia.

City and commune
Downtown of Ziguinchor
Downtown of Ziguinchor
Ziguinchor is located in Senegal
Location within Senegal
Coordinates (region:SN_type:city): 12°33′43″N 16°17′2″W / 12.56194°N 16.28389°W / 12.56194; -16.28389
Country Senegal
RegionZiguinchor Region
 • MayorOusmane Sonko
 • City and commune32.8 km2 (12.7 sq mi)
12 m (39 ft)
 (2023 census)[1]
 • City and commune214,874
 • Density6,600/km2 (17,000/sq mi)
 • Metro
Time zoneUTC+0 (GMT)

Unlike the semi-arid to arid north of Senegal, Ziguinchor has a tropical savanna climate, as it is under the influence of the West African Monsoon. It has an average annual accumulated rainfall of approximately 1,547 millimetres or 61 inches.[2]



There are several competing etymologies for Ziguinchor's name. The best known comes from the time when Portuguese traders and explorers came to the region to form a trading post. It is derived from a Portuguese phrase, Cheguei e choram, "I came and they cry". The local people, seeing the Europeans, began crying, thinking they were about to be enslaved. Other scholars believe that the name likely predates the Portuguese arrival.

The earliest sources mention the Bainuk of Ezigichor. The term may come from the Bainuk language words "asi nin core," meaning "places to go are finished," relating to the end of the Bainuk migrations in their traditional history. It could also come from "ji gi cor,"' meaning "place of several fields."[3]


PAIGC Secondary School official opening in Ziguinchor, Senegal – 1974
PAIGC Ziguinchor hospital, 1973

The oldest habitation of the area was a Jola village.[citation needed] The first European settlement in the area was founded by the Portuguese in 1645 as a dependency of Cacheu populated by settlers from Cape Verde, and lancados and other Afro-Europeans.[4]

The Portuguese objective was to found a trading post and establish an alliance with the local mansa or king of the Kasa kingdom. Chroniclers described him as the ruler most friendly to the Portuguese along the Guinean coast. The king started to live in a European manner, with table, chairs and western clothing. His court included several Portuguese merchants.[citation needed] One of the commodities for trade were enslaved Africans, and Ziguinchor became a slave port during much of the Portuguese rule.

The post boasted a fort with a few pieces of artillery by 1700, but was never an important economic center. The French occupied Carabane island downstream in 1836, forcing Portuguese ships to pay duties there. Despite frantic diplomatic efforts by governor Honório Barreto, Portugal never really tried to defend their claim to the region. Ziguinchor was eventually transferred to France on 22 April 1888, fulfilling a deal brokered at the Berlin conference of 1886.[4]

Under the French, Ziguinchor became a major trade port, mostly due to the intensive groundnut cultivation which the colonial government encouraged in the interior. By 1900, the area was largely converted to Christianity, although significant Syncretist and Muslim communities flourish.

Rice growing, the traditional crop of the region, was hurt by the government's push to cultivate groundnuts. They forced the clearing of extensive forest areas. The French government also imported rice from the intensive farming they encouraged in French Indochina, shrinking the market for Casamance's traditional main produce.

After independence, the city's economic growth slowed, in part due to the War of Independence in neighboring Guinea-Bissau. The Portuguese military crossed into the area at least once, pursuing PAIGC rebels. Cannon fire could be heard in the city for much of the war. During this period Ziguinchor became a main post for both the Senegalese Army and French forces, guarding the frontier that cut Jola families and communities in two.

As the capital of Casamance, Ziguinchor has been at the center of a three-decade-long conflict with Dakar that has flared into open civil war on more than one occasion. With a population with a majority of Diola and Christian,[5] the effects of a large migration of Wolof Muslims fleeing drought in the north during the 1970s caused tensions to flare. A 1983 demonstration against price rises in Ziguinchor Market was put down violently by Senegalese forces, and an insurgency by the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC) followed, effectively wrecking the economy of the region. The 2004 peace accords, signed in Ziguinchor, were hoped to be the end of the violence, but in 2006, sporadic fighting by an MFDC split and laying of land mines again erupted in rural areas nearby.[6]

Ousmane Sonko, a prominent opposition leader, was elected mayor of Ziguinchor in 2022. The city was the scene of large protests in June 2023 after his conviction on charges that many Senegalese, especially youth, view as a political ploy by President Macky Sall to discredit a rival.[7]


Port of Ziguinchor

Ziguinchor remains economically dependent on its role as a cargo port, transport hub and ferry terminal. The "Nationale 4" highway crosses the Casamance River just east of the city, linking the region with Bignona about 25 km to the north, and (via The Gambia), the rest of Senegal.

A vibrant tourist destination, the beaches of nearby Cap Skirring were discovered by foreign tourists in the 1960s, and the location was built up to become one of the first Club Med resorts. Ziguinchor region is also known for growing great quantities of rice, oranges, mangoes, bananas, cashews, tropical fruits and vegetables, fish, and prawns, much of which are processed locally and exported from the city, its port, and its airport. It is also home to a large peanut oil factory.


The ferry terminal
View on Casamance River

The MV Joola, which sank in 2002, was sailing from Ziguinchor to Dakar. The loss of the ferry, which was not replaced until 2005, cut the main link between Casamance and the rest of the country.[8] The new ferry, which began regular runs in 2007, is named for local anti-colonial martyr Aline Sitoe Diatta, and promises a boost to the local economy. [9]

The city has an airport, Ziguinchor Airport.



A number of buildings in the town have classified by government decree as historic, the cemetery and several government buildings, like the Ziguinchor Regional Council.[10]

The Franco-Senegalese Alliance

Places of worship

Saint-Anthoine de Padoue Cathedral

Among the places of worship, they are predominantly Christian churches and temples: Roman Catholic Diocese of Ziguinchor (Catholic Church), Assemblies of God, Universal Church of the Kingdom of God.[11] There are also Muslim mosques.



Ziguinchor is a melting pot of all the ethnic groups co-existing in Senegal: Mandinka, Jola, Wolof, Fula/Halpulaar, Mancagne, Manjack, Soninke, Serer, Bainouk, Balanta and Creole. Jola have been the majority of the population in the region since at least 1500, and culturally share much with the people of Guinea-Bissau. One of three dialects of Guinea-Bissau Creole, Cacheu–Ziguinchor, is centered around the city. Resistant to first Islam and later Christianity, many Jola retain a degree of animist practices, while Basse Casamance is the only majority Catholic area in Senegal.

Notable natives and residents


Ziguinchor is the birthplace of some famous Senegalese people.

Writers and filmmakers


Sembene Ousmane


  • Doura Mané
  • Bouly Sonko
  • Ousmane Sow Huchard "Soleya Mama"
  • The Tourekunda brothers







Ziguinchor has a tropical savanna climate (Köppen Aw). It has hot, rainless winters and warm, very wet summers. The average annual rainfall is approximately 1,550 millimetres or 61 inches, which is more than three times that of Dakar, although less than half that of Conakry.

Climate data for Ziguinchor (1991–2020)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Mean daily maximum °C (°F) 34.1
Mean daily minimum °C (°F) 17.8
Record low °C (°F) 12.4
Average precipitation mm (inches) 4.9
Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm) 1.2 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.7 6.6 17.5 21.4 18.4 7.9 0.3 0.0 74.1
Source: NOAA[12]


Ziguinchor Regional Council

In the decades following independence, Ziguinchor was a stronghold of the Socialist Party of Senegal (PS). Robert Sagna, a long-time minister in Socialist Party governments, was also Mayor of Ziguinchor from 1984 to 2009. In the beginning of 2007 Sagna left the PS and led the Taku Défaraat Sénégal coalition in a failed presidential bid.[13] In 2001's legislative elections, a big push by President Abdoulaye Wade's ruling PDS party, spearheading the Sopi coalition (joined in 2008 by And-Jëf/Pads), was led by Ziguinchor politician Abdoulaye Baldé, a former General Secretary to the President. In the 2001 elections, the a Ziguinchor National Assembly seat was gained by the PDS, and held again in 2007, prompting speculation that Sagna and his party's days of dominating local politics were numbered. Sagna, though, won a legislative seat on proportional representation in 2007, and continued in both offices[14] until 2009. The Sopi Coalition won the March 2009 local election in Ziguinchor, and Baldé was elected Mayor.[15] He served until 2022, when he was defeated by Ousmane Sonko, a nationally prominent leader of the Yewwi Askan Wi coalition.[16]

Africa Cup of Nations


Ziguinchor was one of the venues for the 1992 Africa Cup of Nations football championship. The city Sports and Arts Associations conceived for the first time the concept of having specific suburbs barracking for each national team in order to give a vibrant and joyful atmosphere to the Football tournament that saw Algeria, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Zambia, Egypt, Congo play the first half of the Championship in that city. This successful and original experience inspired other tournament organisers from then on. Mali hosting the 2002 Africa Cup of Nations used the same concept through the famous Ndiatiguiya, (having specific suburbs barracking for a specific team throughout the tournament), and then Korea/Japan during the 2002 World Cup used the same concept as well.



École française François-Rabelais, a French international school serving maternelle (preschool) through collège, is in Ziguinchor.[17]

The Catholic University of West Africa opened a campus in Ziguinchor in 2006.[4] Ziguinchor University was founded in 2007.[18]

Twin towns – sister cities


Ziguinchor is twinned with:


  1. ^ a b Citypopulation.de Population and area of Ziguinchor Commune
  2. ^ "SENEGAL" (PDF). International Water Management Institute. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 July 2010. Retrieved 4 October 2012.
  3. ^ Bühnen, Stephan. “Place Names as an Historical Source: An Introduction with Examples from Southern Senegambia and Germany.” History in Africa, vol. 19, 1992, pp. 45–101. JSTOR, https://doi.org/10.2307/3171995. Accessed 27 Jul. 2022.
  4. ^ a b c Lobban, Richard Andrew Jr.; Mendy, Peter Karibe (2013). Historical Dictionary of the Republic of Guinea-Bissau (4th ed.). Lanham: Scarecrow Press. pp. 433–435. ISBN 978-0-8108-5310-2.
  5. ^ Caroline JUILLARD. Sub-Saharian immigration in France: from diversity to integration Archived 13 August 2008 at the Wayback Machine. Université René Descartes-Paris V. Conference paper. University of Texas (2003) pp.9–10.
    For full population summary, see Centre culturel régional de Ziguinchor Archived 17 November 2007 at the Wayback Machine, Ministère de la Culture, du Patrimoine historique classé, des Langues nationales et de la Francophonie, Government of Senegal (2004).
  6. ^ Ernest Harsch. Peace pact raises hope in Senegal: After 22 years, Casamance war is winding down Archived 14 February 2008 at the Wayback Machine, From Africa Renewal, Vol.19 No. 1 (April 2005), page 14.
    Crowds cheer Senegal peace deal, BBC, 30 December 2004. Casamance rebels attack town, BBC, 4 January 2002.
  7. ^ Peltier, Elian (1 June 2023). "Protests Erupt in Senegal After Opposition Leader Is Sentenced to Prison". New York Times. Retrieved 28 August 2023.
  8. ^ Eyewitness: Senegal weeps for ferry loss, BBC, 28 September 2002.
    Senegal restores vital ferry link, BBC, 12 November 2005.
  9. ^ LIAISON MARITIME DAKAR-ZIGUINCHOR: "Aline Sitoé Diatta, c'est le refus de la fatalité", selon le président, Le Soleil, 15 December 2007.
  10. ^ "ARRETE MINISTERIEL n° 2711 mcphc-dpc en date du 3 mai 2006". Republic of Senegal. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 17 November 2016.
  11. ^ J. Gordon Melton, Martin Baumann, Religions of the World: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Beliefs and Practices, ABC-CLIO, USA, 2010, p. 2573-2575
  12. ^ "World Meteorological Organization Climate Normals for 1991-2020 — Ziguinchor". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 10 January 2024.
  13. ^ Mame Less Camara, Senegal's presidential contenders, BBC News, 22 February 2007.
  14. ^ Pds et Aj décident d'aller en coalition à Ziguinchor Archived 4 March 2008 at the Wayback Machine, Le Soleil, 28 February 2008. SÛR DE LA VICTOIRE DE LA COALITION SOPI A ZIGUINCHOR, Abdoulaye Baldé lance des piques à Robert Sagna. Nettali. 12 May 2007 . Deux défaites successives à Ziguinchor: Est-ce le chant du cygne pour Robert Sagna ?, Rewmi, 6 June 2007 Robert Sagna va t-il vers la rupture ? Chronique d'un départ annoncé Archived 2 December 2009 at the Wayback Machine, Parti socialiste Sénégal, 13 December 2006
  15. ^ "Passation de service à la mairie de Ziguinchor: Baldé fait de Robert Sagna, "le maire honoraire de la ville""[permanent dead link], xalimasn.com, 18 April 2009 (in French).
  16. ^ Soumaré, Marième (25 January 2022). "Senegal: Oppositionist Ousmane Sonko celebrates his election victory in Ziguinchor". The Africa Report. Retrieved 28 August 2023.
  17. ^ "École française François-Rabelais." AEFE. Retrieved on 3 May 2015.
  18. ^ OUVERTURE DE L'UNIVERSITE DE ZIGUINCHOR Archived 15 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine, Agance Pres Senegalais, 3 March 2007.
  19. ^ "Villes jumelées" (in French). Compiègne. Retrieved 23 November 2023.
  20. ^ "Gemellaggi" (in Italian). Rimini. Retrieved 23 November 2023.
  21. ^ "Découvrez Saint-Maur" (in French). Saint-Maur-des-Fossés. Retrieved 23 November 2023.
  22. ^ "Ilhas de Cabo Verde: Ilha do Fogo" (in Portuguese and French). Cabo Verde Islands. Retrieved 23 November 2023.
  23. ^ "Relações internacionais / cooperação" (in Portuguese). Viana do Castelo. Retrieved 23 November 2023.


  • Much of this article was translated from the French language Wikipedia article fr:Ziguinchor.
  • Ferdinand de Jong. Politicians of the Sacred Grove: Citizenship and Ethnicity in Southern Senegal. Africa: Journal of the International African Institute, Vol. 72, No. 2 (2002), pp. 203–220 On the political and cultural tactics of longtime mayor Robert Sagna.

Further reading

  • (in French) Jean-Claude Bruneau, Ziguinchor en Casamance: aspects géographiques de la capitale régionale du Sud Sénégalais, Université de Bordeaux III, 1975, 409 p. (Thèse de 3rd cycle)
  • (in French) Jean-Claude Bruneau, Ziguinchor en Casamance: la croissance urbaine dans les pays tropicaux, Talence, Ministère des universités, CNRS, Centre d'études de géographie tropicale, 1979
  • (in French) Nfally Diedhiou, Administration coloniale et travail forcé en Casamance. Étude de cas du réseau routier à travers la construction de la route Tobor-Ziguinchor, Dakar, Université Cheikh Anta Diop, 2000, 119 p. + annexes, (Mémoire de Maîtrise)
  • (in French) Maguette Diop, Monographie climatique d'une station synoptique: Ziguinchor (1946–1975), Université de Dakar, 1977 (Mémoire de Maîtrise)
  • (in French) Baudouin Duquesne, Le secteur informel en Afrique. Approche théorique et étude de cas: "les barroms-sarrettes de Ziguinchor", Sénégal, 1986
  • (in French) Mamadou Goudiaby, Monographie de la ville de Ziguinchor de 1886 à 1960: le problème des sources, Dakar, Université Cheikh Anta Diop, 2001, 51 p. (Mémoire de DEA)
  • (in French) Caroline Juillard, Sociolinguistique urbaine: la vie des langues à Ziguinchor (Sénégal), Paris, CNRS, 1995
  • (in French) Mamadou Goudiaby, Monographie de la ville de Ziguinchor de 1886 à 1960: le problème des sources, Dakar, Université Cheikh Anta Diop, 2001, 51 p. (Mémoire de DEA)
  • (in French) Jacqueline Trincaz, Colonisations et religions en Afrique noire. L'exemple de Ziguinchor, Paris, L'Harmattan, 1981, VIII + 360 p. (Thèse de 3rd cycle publiée)
  • (in French) Pierre-Xavier Trincaz, Colonisation et régionalisme, la double domination: exemple de Ziguinchor en Casamance, Sénégal. Etude urbaine socio-économique d'une capitale régionale d'Afrique, Paris, Université de Paris V, 1979 (Thèse de 3rd cycle publiée en 1984, Colonisation et Régionalisme. Ziguinchor en Casamance, Paris, ORSTOM, 270 p.

12°35′N 16°16′W / 12.583°N 16.267°W / 12.583; -16.267