Bassirou Faye Has Been Sworn In As Senegal’s President: Meet The Fascinating Mouridiyya Brotherhood That Played A Huge Role In His Victory

By Emmanuel Nduka

On Tuesday, April 2, 2024, Bassirou Faye, a left-wing pan-Africanist, was sworn in as Senegal’s youngest president, after sweeping to a first-round victory on a pledge of radical reform just 10 days after he was released from prison. He went from prison to power.

At 44, he is now Africa’s youngest serving president, and has since become an inspiration to many young Africans aspiring for leadership positions. Prior to his emergence as president, Faye has never held an elected office.

“Before God and the Senegalese nation, I swear to faithfully fulfil the office of President of the Republic of Senegal,” Faye said before the African dignitaries who gathered in his honour.

He also vowed to “scrupulously observe the provisions of the Constitution and the laws” and to defend “the integrity of the territory and national independence, and to spare no effort to achieve African unity”.

The Mouridiyya Impact

The Mouridiyya Brotherhood believe that physical labour, such as farming, construction work and cooking, is an act of prayer and devotion. They are well known for their colourful clothing, dreadlocks and mass chanting. Credit: AFP

Founded over 140 years ago in 1883 in Senegal by Amadou Bamba, the Mouride (Mouridiyya) Brotherhood is a large and powerful tariga (Sufi order) group that makes up around 40 percent of Senegal’s entire population, and wades commanding influence over everyday life.

The fascinating Senegalese Muslim sect, according to political analysts, helped partly to bring president Faye to power in a historic landmark feat. The dreadlock-styled Mouridiyya Brotherhood on account of migration, are today the ‘Baye Fall’ all over the world; in Europe, America, Canada, and some parts of Africa. They are distinctively recognized by their dreadlocks, patchwork multi-coloured robes made from scrap fabric symbolizing humility, giant prayer beads, and talismans round their necks and waists.

On logical levels, the Mouridiyya Brotherhood are incredibly rich, powerful, fascinating, and has many influential figures in their ranks. One of such is former President Abdulahi Wade who was one of the coalition partners in the just concluded election that brought on Faye.

Although leaders of all the brotherhood don’t really get involved in politics, Wade managed to secure their support for president Faye. President Faye is said to have won in their stronghold, according to a commentator, with margins of soviet type proportions.

Heritage Times HT reports that a number of famous Senegalese musicians- Cheikh Lo, and Superstar Yousou Ndor are members of the Mouridiyya Brotherhood.

Political/Economic Influence

Senegalese politicians have courted the Mouridiyya Brotherhood since independence, and prior to independence, French colonial overseers recognized that the Mouridiyya Brotherhood was well-respected among the Senegalese and partnered with them to promote political and social order.

As history has it, when the Senegalese population was allowed to elect a deputy to the French Assembly during the 19th century, the Mouridiyya Brotherhood played a key role in shaping who that deputy was at the time.

The Mouridiyya Brotherhood produces an estimated one-half of Senegal’s groundnuts. Groundnuts are the third largest export from Senegal, after fish and phosphates. The production partnership between the Brotherhood and the Senegalese government stems from the French colonial overseers, who had viewed the production of groundnuts by the Mouridiyyas as a means of economic advantage through the increasing production of crops for export.  This has made the brotherhood to always have a large influence in the groundnut market and Senegal’s economy in general.

Credit: Gbenro Adegbola

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