Senegalese are mourning the death of the leader of the Mourides, one of the country's most influential Muslim brotherhoods. The general khalife of Senegal's Mouride brotherhood, Serigne Bara Mbacké, was buried early Thursday in the holy city of Touba, just hours after his death. He died Wednesday at the age of 85.
Thousands of mourners - including Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, a member of the Mouride brotherhood - already are flocking to Touba, about 200-kilometers from Dakar, to pay their respects. President Wade arrived in Touba to present his condolences with a large delegation that included several government ministers and parliamentary members.
Senegal is 95 percent Muslim. The Mourides are one of the largest Muslim brotherhoods, and they exert considerable religious, political and economic influence in the West African country.
In tribute, men have been singing the Hassaides, the devotional poems of the Mouride's prolific founder, Cheikh Amadou Bamba, who was known for his resistance to French colonial rule. Bamba founded the Mouride brotherhood in 1883, and leadership has since passed to his male descendants. Serigne Bara Mbacké was the first of Bamba's grandsons to become the general khalife, a post he assumed in December 2007.
Tributes to the deceased khalife dominated Senegalese media Thursday.
A Mouride and politician from Touba, Moustapha Cisse Lo, says he remembers advising the khalife not to move and travel so much. But he says, the khalife replied that he was given a divine mission from his father and so long as he was able, he would go toward the people.
In Senegal, members of the Christian community and other Muslim brotherhoods, including the Tidjani, also presented their condolences.
A representative of one prominent Tidjani family says with Mbacké's death, all Muslims are in mourning, but there is acceptance that "we come from God and we return to God." He says even though Serigne Bara Mbacké was general khalife for only a short time, he achieved many important things and worked to unite all Muslims, regardless of what brotherhood they belonged to.
Leadership of the Mourides passed to another of the founder's grandsons, Serigne Cheikh Sidi Moukhtar Mbacké, known more commonly as Cheikh Maty Leye Mbacké.
In the traditional eight days of mourning ahead, tens of thousands of Mourides are expected to converge on the holy city of Touba to pray outside the mausoleum where the deceased khalife is buried.