wikileaks ico  Home papers ico  Cables mirror and Afghan War Diary privacy policy  Privacy
09DAKAR226 2009-02-24 11:10:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Dakar
Cable title:  

Senegal: Massive pilgrimage to Touba underlines strength of

pdf how-to read a cable
DE RUEHDK #0226/01 0551110
R 241110Z FEB 09
					  UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 DAKAR 000226 



E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Senegal: Massive pilgrimage to Touba underlines strength of
the new Mouride Caliph

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: On February 14 the Mouride brotherhood celebrated
its annual pilgrimage known as the Magal or "elevation" in Wolof.
The Magal commemorates the exile of the founder of the brotherhood,
Ahmadou Bamba MBacke, to Gabon by French Colonial authorities in

1895. This year's Magal saw massive attendance and coincides with
the completion of the first year of the rule of the new
Caliph-General, Serigne Bara Mbacke. End Summary.

The Celebration of Resilience


2. (SBU) After seven years of exile and house arrest in Gabon, the
founder of Mouridism returned to Senegal in 1902 to continue to lay
down the groundwork for his vision of a non-violent Islamic movement
to counter the influence of French colonialism. Bamba's brand of
Islam promoted a strong work ethic, self-reliance, and self-esteem
in a society that had lost its identity following the expansion of
colonization. His exile is interpreted by Mourides as a spiritual
retreat where Bamba worshipped God who in return rewarded him with
the city of Touba.

A Period of Transition


3. (SBU) This Magal coincides with Caliph Bara Mbacke's first year
as leader of the Mourides. He is the first grandson to inherit the
caliphate and, judging from the massive attendance of the
celebration, the transition seems to be proceeding well. Atou
Diagne, leader of the powerful Mouride NGO, Hizbut Tarquiyyah, told
Embassy that this Magal is, "a new beginning, because when Serigne
Bara became Caliph there was real tension within Mouridism. There
was a fear that some players outside the community would use this
tension to fuel divisions in order to break their influence within
Senegal. Instead, what they got is a new vision and a Caliph who
has really come into his own. Many acolytes came from all over the
country to revivify their faith and see for themselves the large
renovation projects they had heard so much about."

The Caliph's Message


4. (SBU) In his message, the Caliph called upon wealthy Senegalese
within the country and abroad to invest in agriculture and industry
to stem the tide of illegal migration among the country's youth. He
also called upon the state to support religious education in the
formal system and to promote good citizenship. He invited the
leaders of the international community to promote peace and
dialogue, which he said are the only ways to guarantee security and
prosperity for mankind.

If you Don't Build Touba, God Will Send Angels To Do It



5. (SBU) The new Caliph has initiated projects that are expected to
cost some fourteen billion CFA (28 million dollars). These include
the enlargement of the grand Mosque of Touba, the renovation of the
electricity grid, and roadwork aimed at connecting the city's major
squares (known as Pinth) to the city's ring road to increase traffic
flow. In the past year alone, the Caliph has spent 1.3 billion CFA
(2.5 million dollars) of his personal funds on the Mosque. With
that money he has, for example, made a payment to purchase marble
that will pave 25,000 square meters around the Mosque. He has also
announced that he will soon lay the foundation of an Islamic
University that will be home to 30,000 students from Senegal and
abroad. This project is the physical embodiment of one of the
tenets of Mouridism that a disciple should "worship God enlightened
by science and anchored on good behavior." Recalling the words of
Bamba that "if the Mourides do not build the Mosque of Touba, God
would send angels to do it," the Caliph said the same applies today
for the city of Touba, as the state has promised much, but delivered
very little.

Effort at Transparency


6. (SBU) At a recent ceremony to launch public works in Touba, a
spokesperson of the Caliph gave a detailed financial accounting of
the projects being conducted in Touba. This is unprecedented and
shows that Bara is aware that, unlike his predecessors who were
venerated, some will hold him accountable and it is in his interest
to be transparent to maintain his authority. It was revealed that
his predecessor Serigne Saliou spent some 6 billion CFA (12 million
dollars) on a variety of infrastructure projects and that the
Mouride community's bank account known as the Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba
Account had a balance of 16.97 billion CFA (approximately 34 million
dollars). He also said that President Wade had given a contribution
of 2 billion CFA (4 million dollars) to the late Caliph; but that he
later took it back to pay the Chinese company Henan Chine that build
the NGabu Road, a new five-mile highway that makes access to Touba
easier. Wade's reason was that the GOS had failed to budget the
cost of the road.

A Political and Diplomatic Center

DAKAR 00000226 002 OF 002


7. (SBU) A week before the Magal, political leaders of all stripes
flocked to Touba to re-affirm their spiritual and political
allegiance to the Caliph. Leading the pack was President Wade who
spent the night of February 9 in Touba, met twice with the Caliph,
and visited ongoing infrastructure projects. Wade's most
significant act was that he came with his son Karim to officially
introduce him to the Caliph. This is the clearest step yet in
building Karim into a potential successor. Wade asked for support
for Karim, whom he dubbed, "an honest and hard-working leader."



8. (SBU) In contrast to the government, the Mourides continue to
show an economic dynamism that seems to belay the financial crisis
that is affecting the country at large. The new Caliph is committed
to modernizing the city of Touba and boosting higher education,
areas that his predecessors had largely neglected. This Magal has
also served to further shore up the Caliph's authority over the
Brotherhood. Attendance was at an all-time high and the city of
Touba itself is undergoing many changes that are being welcomed by
the local populace. This bodes well for the future of the Mourides
and, by extension, represents one source of stability in Senegal.