“The world is old but the future rises from the past”


Hierarchy in the past was determined by social class and Senegalese genealogy. Senegal is a democratic country but the reality is that it is not really united as one of the people. Bloodlines become everything especially depending on where you stand in the socioeconomic classes. Geer are the wealthy and well-off. Jom is meaning the honor of safeguarding the decency of the lineage, kersa—decency or good public speaking and behavior, yar—is good education and good values.

The bloodlines of the Tooroodoo—noble by descent, faith in Islam and usually are the imam (priest type of Islam). They want to distinguish themselves from the Deniankee—who are the fishermen, shoemakers, workers etc. Marriage between the two classes does not happen frequently because the Toroodoo do not want to mix bloodlines. Caste system is based on the purity of the bloodlines and your genealogy. People can renegotiate their bloodline to gain more prestige especially, if the Deniankee rise to political power or religious leadership. It is a very sensitive topic and people don’t like or want to talk about it. Leaders in Senegal want to seem like they are in power, very special and prestigious. This differs from the United States where the leaders want to seem like the average joe who you’d get a beer with—why the difference?

In Senegal, there are brotherhoods of Islam and are as follows:

  • Tijaniyya- from Morocco, Wolof,Paul, largest group at 49% of Senegalese, they are divided by families so not as united as the Mourides
  • Mourides- Bamba religious leaders, “Bamba Merci” is very special to Senegal and a sense of nationality, Wolof, while they are second largest group with 35% of Senegalese but they are more united than the
  • Laayeeres- in Dakar, Wolof, lebou (fishermen) smaller Sufi order
  • Qadiryya– oldest, founded in Baghdad, Iraq and northern Mali by the Sufi mystic Abdul Qadir al-Jilani


95% Muslims, 4% of Christians, 1% of Animists

19th century was a period of assimilation to the French culture. That was when the rise of Bamba and other political leaders. Islam was almost used as an opposition to the French because the French were Christians, Nasrani (Arabic). The first president in Senegal was Catholic because of the minority promotion done by the French—if you promote the minorities, they will be loyal to you. The majority of the population is a Wolof Muslim group of people. The political leaders realize the importance of religion in Senegal and will try to have the religious leaders and the general caliph promote them.

Political system in Senegal

Politically, Senegal is praised with having one of the most stable political system in Africa. Organization is similar to the United States with an Executive Power branch—the president of the republic is in this branch. Legislative power—the Senegalese National Assembly has 150 MPs elected and 90 are elected by province and 60 elected nationally. Judiciary branch is made up of many courts.

The Republic of Senegal was established in 1960 through finally gaining independence. 1960-2000 there was the same political party who was in office until 2000 when a liberal candidate won, President Wade. The government is far from balanced—the President controls almost everything like electing their congress and controls all institutions and independent administrative bodies. He and other government leaders will leave their political party and become a “voice for all,” taking a pro-national position moving away from their own party; people in Senegal see this as Americans would—not standing to their beliefs and being wishy-washy which is not respected but it happens because those people want to gain power and stay in power.

The nation of Senegal has over 200 political parties that can range from 100,000 people to a family and neighbors together of 10 people and they will then create alliances with the bigger parties to see what they can offer them in exchange for their vote. The candidates are supposed to be secular from the religious parities but the religious leaders can promote. People of the brotherhoods of Islam used to listen intently to these leaders until the 1960s to 80s when Senegalese started becoming more educated able to decide to separate religion from the state. Any political party cannot affiliate with religion or ethnic group.

“Three schools of thought”— National Democratic Assembly 

1. Social-democratic wing

2. The Liberal-democratic wing

3. Marxist-Leninist wing

 [Info from lecture in Dakar, Senegal]


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