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Millions Pay Their Respects to Late Senegalese Mouride Leader


Hundreds of thousands of followers of the Mouride religion have flocked to the holy city of Touba, Senegal, to mourn the death of their spiritual leader Serigne Saliou Mbacké. The 92-year-old Caliph of the Mourides, a brotherhood of the Muslim faith, died Friday. President Abdoulaye Wade declared three days of national mourning, ending Monday. Jade Heilmann reports from the holy city of Touba.

Followers of the Mouride Muslim brotherhood waited in one-half kilometer lines to visit the grave of their spiritual leader Caliph Serigne Saliou Mbacké.

President Abdoulaye Wade made the journey from the Senegalese capital of Dakar on the day of Caliph Mbacke's death.

Falau Badiane is a Talibé, or disciple of the brotherhood. He traveled from Mbadiane to pay his respects.

Speaking Wolof, he explains he feels the country is panicked by the death of their leader, the last living son of Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba, who founded the Mouride brotherhood in the 1880s.

He says he still has faith in their new caliph, who is the grandson of the Mouride founder, because he is from the same family. The new caliph is Mouhamadou Lamine Bara Mbacke.

The late Caliph Mbaké was responsible for helping Touba grow from a small rural village to a city that now has a population of more than one million. He also led one of the biggest peanut plantations in Senegal, on land given by the government, and a network of hawkers, many of whom sell handbags and sunglasses and other petty goods, mostly with fake brands, in Europe and the United States.

Part of the profits from this global network are sent back to Touba and have helped fund the holy cities' growth.

In the city's palatial grand mosque, another Talibé who goes by his brotherhood branch's name, Baye Fall, expresses his sadness over his leader's death.

He explains the teaching of the marabout, as the sect's religious teachers are known, simply asked his followers to work and be pious. He says he, like all Baye Fall members, works in the marabout's fields.

These teachings have earned the Mourides great religious, economic and political power. The majority of Senegalese political officials had to seek the endorsement of Mbacké.

President Wade is a follower.

The marabouts' teachings are often learned at an early age at Koranic schools. Their education focuses on religious texts, but also on physical labor.

Sitting in a circle on the floor of the grand mosque, young boys chant prayers for their late leader.

Many followers believe the death of their caliph is the beginning of a new era. Some have named it the era of the grandson.

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