The Declaration of the 100: What Paths to Salvation for Senegal?

Dear fellow citizens, friends, and residents of Senegal,

Our country currently faces a challenging and uncertain time, and a mounting. As Senegalese citizens, it is important for us to speak up and take action to prevent any further escalation of this situation. We cannot afford to remain silent and let our country face the dark future that lies ahead. While the headwinds we face may seem overwhelming, we can overcome them if we work together and mobilize our efforts. Let us unite to prevent our beloved country from facing the bleak prospects that await us if we do not act now.

Respected figures from different sectors urge all involved parties to ease strains and inhibit any physical or verbal violence that could potentially harm our nation. These voices come from a variety of fields such as academia, business, engineering, religion, literature, diplomacy, healthcare, education, and civil service. They are active members of our society with different beliefs and opinions but are united in their commitment to maintaining national unity and preserving our shared values. These individuals draw inspiration from the teachings of Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba and other spiritual leaders who have played a significant role in shaping our country.

This country has provided us with many things, such as education, employment, freedom of movement, dignity, aspirations, and hope. However, the country is now at a crucial point where it must make a decision about its future. Despite facing challenges in the past, the country has been able to progress with the help of courageous individuals, energetic young people, and enterprising citizens. Unfortunately, political leaders have not always been up to the task, hindering the country’s potential. Nevertheless, we can overcome these obstacles and must do so in order to move forward.

The Grand Mufti Serigne Mbacké Bousso, one of the first disciples of Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba, wrote an open letter titled “The Language of Truth” to Galandou Diouf, a former deputy of Senegal. In this letter, he gave advice on the relationship between leaders and citizens, using Qur’anic teachings. Speaking about the relationship between leaders and citizens in an unprecedented style, he addressed the leaders and then the populations, borrowing the voice of the Creator:

“So be grateful to Me, Galandou Diouf, by developing My country, taking care of My servants, bringing exiles back home, releasing prisoners, supporting the weak, and helping professionals in their profession so that they are not exposed to distress.”

“Be grateful to Me, Galandou Diouf, by considering yourself as one among them and not seeing yourself as better than them, but as someone whom I have chosen among them to observe how you will behave. I elevate whoever shows humility and I lower whoever shows pride.”

“As for you, who have elected him, be grateful by helping him develop this blessed country. Avoid asking him for things that do not have a character of general interest, but only things that fall under public interest. By doing so, I will assist you, I will perpetuate your glory and make you known everywhere. You will then catch up with the peoples who preceded you and you will surpass even more those you already surpass. Know that the past was only dark by raising the partisan beyond his merits, by turning a blind eye to his faults and flaws, and by prejudicing the opponent, no matter how many merits he has. Be grateful to Me, do not be ungrateful! I am the One who revealed: “If you are grateful, I will surely increase [My blessings] for you.” [Abraham: 07] and I never fail to keep My promise. I make powerful whom I will and I humiliate whom I will, I give authority to whom I will over whom I will and I withdraw it from whom I will, and no one can repel My decisions.”

Religious leaders, public authorities, and the population

It is important to recognize that religious leaders in Senegal play a significant role in regulating society, but this role is often overlooked or even suppressed by the institutional framework of the country. While they are recognized as important guides for most Senegalese in their lifetime, they are uniquely sought after when crises arise or threats loom. This is in part because the political decision-makers, in the name of secularism, have pushed them to the edges of the national agenda. Yet these same religious leaders are the bridges between an extraverted political system and the populations, who are nevertheless citizens of this country. To these latter, considered by the majority of our leaders as electoral cattle and not as citizens of equal dignity.  Moreover, the use of a foreign language as the official language of the country further perpetuates a sense of disconnection between the government and the people, as many citizens do not speak or understand it fluently.

Religious leaders remain vulnerable to legal offenses and no legal provisions exist to protect them, unlike the shielded head of state surrounded by a deterrent system of repression. Despite fulfilling safety valves and landmarks for the population, the religious leaders have not demanded any special status. However, they are sociologically equipped with expertise in resolving societal issues as they live amongst the people, who hold them in high esteem. As a result, they continue to pray and work towards peace and reduction of the cost of living for families. Hence, emerges the question of whether this situation is sustainable, given its incongruity.

“Yërmaande”, a social demand

The demands of the Senegalese people for basic needs and opportunities for a better life appear legitimate. However, despite significant efforts in infrastructure by various governments in recent decades, the gap between the leaders and their constituents widen. This is a longstanding issue that dates back to the early post-independence years, and the old farmer’s wish for the end of this new era still partly remains on the agenda after 63 years. The people of Senegal wish to eat well, to access quality healthcare at a lower cost, to receive quality education to bring their expertise to the global stage, and to travel easily and with minimal risk.

Today, the Senegalese household budget leaks everywhere. Hyperinflation pinches the weakest. The Covid-19 and the war between Ukraine and Russia darken the picture. The populations, already very much tested, kneel down. By entrusting tens of thousands of billions of CFA francs to their leaders, Senegalese people adamantly strive for a better well-being that will allow them to be productive in turn. They desire nothing more than a leader who attentively listens to them, who lives the same realities as them, and who stays fundamentally connected to their legitimate aspirations. To achieve this, we must courageously take charge of the problem by putting the homo senegalensis at the center of his own development. Let us not waste time, let us give a clear signal. Increased solidarity with the most disadvantaged populations of our country is necessary. One ask reverberates across all segments of the Senegalese population: peace.  Peace in all its dimensions. In this regard, let us examine a paragraph of one of the General Khalifah of the Mourides’ speech about peace.

Peace

Serigne Mountakha reminded us that Senegal definitively acquired peace the day Allah granted us with this exceptional being: Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba. We must draw inspiration from his teachings and philosophy, he who was unjustly accused, imprisoned, deported, exiled, and then kept under house arrest for more than thirty-three years without ever once lifting a hand against his enemies or calling for rebellion. Despite facing unjust accusations, imprisonment, deportation, exile, and over 33 years of house arrest, he never resorted to violence or called for rebellion, despite having thousands of followers. With unwavering faith, unshakable resolve, total trust in Allah, and piety, he trained men according to his values. He accomplished his most important projects after his return to Allah. He forgave his enemies for the sake of the One who had chased them away, and he saw no need to defend himself. He had a clear vision and knew that time was the best arbiter because he had trained men. His model should inspire anyone who desires to establish equity and justice. We can draw strength from his philosophy and teachings by following his example of promoting peace and coexisting while remaining firm in fundamental principles. This invitation extends to all political actors in the country, regardless of their affiliations.

Senegal aspires to solely one thing: its smooth running. Senegalese people have one aspiration: peace. In accordance with the Mouride tradition, a disciple once asked the Cheikh if anything was more important than peace, to which the Cheikh responded that he did not know of anything more significant in this world or the Hereafter.

The Place of Justice and Equity

What fuel the foundations of a peaceful world, especially the place of justice, equity, and transparency in any human society that aims to operate well? The answer to these questions requires prior reflection on the very nature of justice and its role. Justice makes its decisions “in the name of the Senegalese people.” It must be based on the principles of ethics, equity, and independence of all actors in the institution.

Rigoberta Menchú Tum, a human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate (1992), said: “Peace cannot exist without justice, justice cannot exist without equity, equity cannot exist without democracy, and democracy cannot exist without development, and development cannot exist without respect for the identity and value of cultures and peoples.”

Justice is the bedrock of a well-functioning society. In the past, Muslim scholars shared the assertion that “Allah supports the society where justice reigns, even if it is unfaithful; He abandons the one where injustice reigns, even if it is faithful.” In the absence of equitable justice, people end up taking justice into their own hands, leading straight to anarchy and incalculable damage. Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, instructed us on three types of judges (that exist) and their fate. The judge who knows the truth and judges based on that knowledge will go to Paradise. The judge who knows the truth and decides without considering it will go to Hell. As for the one who does not know the truth and arbitrates anyway, they will also be a guest of Hell. And Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba invites us in Kun Kaatiman to never sacrifice the afterlife for the pleasures of this ephemeral world. Whoever gives up light for darkness will regret it. In society, we all have an interest in cultivating the values of equity and justice if we aspire to peace and prosperity.

Transparency

Transparency is a pillar of good governance and a guarantee of citizens’ trust in their elected officials. This transparency should be the backbone of the management of public goods. It was this transparency that prompted Khalifa Omar Ibn Khattab to justify the few extra centimeters of cloth he had after sharing a holy war booty. This same transparency was also the concern of Serigne Cheikh Mbacké Gaïndé Fatma, grandson of Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba, when he launched the famous phrase “laaj lu ñu man, def ko fu ñu xam**,” which later became the slogan of Touba Ca Kanam and the practice that earned him the trust of the Mouride community. However, it must be recognized that this transparency is not the prerogative of the majority of those who manage our common goods, which hinders any possibility of development. How can we strengthen democracy?

Respect for the Constitution is imperative for the proper functioning of a democracy. If national sovereignty belongs to the people, each citizen holds a share of it. Voting is a fundamental right that allows citizens to exercise their citizenship by participating in the election of their representatives. Any democracy must have laws that enable citizens to change governments or political projects on legal grounds, without resorting to violence, and by respecting the procedures defined by the laws.

Equality before the law, the right to a fair trial, freedom of conscience, freedom of expression, the right to vote, and the right to move freely are fundamental rights that the Republic of Senegal has proclaimed and guarantees with the Constitution as its foundation. Therefore, we must respect the Constitution, both in its letter and in its spirit. What common moral basis is needed for trust in the justice of institutions to be built and maintained? Ultimately, how can we ensure that good moral values become the laws that govern the conscience of every Senegalese citizen?

Return to Our Values

The wise man of Darou Minane, Serigne Mountakha Mbacké reminds us that the land of our dear country has been intoxicated with the blood of men of Allah; that the ink of our valiant scholars has fertilized its soil and irrigated its plains. We must therefore act to the best of our abilities. Unfortunately, the spectacle we are witnessing is a real disaster for the education of our children who are exposed to the vulgarity and crudeness of the language they hear, which offends their innocence. Information has become violent tornadoes sweeping away all the young shoots of virtue, modesty, kersa, and restraint that were planted in the conscience of our youth. Those in Power as well as those in the Opposition must learn to speak in the most beautiful manner, as recommended by the Quran. They must learn to speak with restraint, covering their speech with kersa and tegin. Let us not forget that everything that is said today will be repeated tomorrow before The Creator.

The respect for one’s word is also a fundamental value in our country. It must be preserved. The failure to respect one’s word condemns its author to a loss of dignity, for by doing so, they have exposed their nakedness by tearing the cloak of honor that covered them in the eyes of society. The word given is the meeting place for men who have the slightest moral requirement, those who embody our values of “jom, ngor, kersa, doylu, ande nawle”. A poet once said, “Love is more precious than life, honor more precious than money, and more precious than both is the word given.” The Quran says, “And fulfill [every] commitment. Indeed, the commitment is ever [that about which one will be] questioned.” [17:34] and “O you who have believed, fulfill [all] contracts.” Praising Ishmael, son of Ibrahim, Allah says, “And mention in the Book, Ishmael. Indeed, he was true to his promise, and he was a messenger and a prophet.” [19:54] Our most sacred reference, the Quran, questions and warns the believer, “O you who have believed, why do you say what you do not do? It is most hateful to Allah that you say that which you do not do.” [61:2-3]

Is the current situation a threat or an opportunity?

Ultimately, this situation can be an immense opportunity to rediscover the trace of our glorious history and use it as a foundation to move forward. We need an unwavering will to overcome class, clan, and territorial interests, however legitimate they may be, as they are often minor compared to the stakes. The state must enable every Senegalese person to participate in the exclusive construction that can allow our country to have its say and be heard on the world stage, facing today’s and tomorrow’s empires. Even though our world is driven by the most advanced technologies, we must make a massive investment in building strong institutions that will withstand and adapt to change. People come and go, but institutions remain. Senegal will remain.

As Carl A. Schenk said: “If you want a harvest for a year, plant corn. If you want a harvest for a decade, plant trees. If you want a harvest for a century, raise people. If you want a harvest for eternity, build democracies.”

What model of development do we want?

With leaders inspired by good moral values, guided by ethics and equity, we can engage in the project of endogenous development based on the teachings of Serigne Touba and the great moral figures of our country. A decentralized Senegal, resolutely committed to the construction of a great country, producing its basic needs and playing an active role in its own development. Serigne Touba had already shown us the way. In 1926, after collecting 5 million francs for the construction of the great mosque of Touba at a rate of 140 francs per adult and 40 francs per child, a form of crowdfunding ahead of its time, Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba had said to his followers, among other things: “For any project, rely on your own resources. Because relying on others means relinquishing your freedom of choice. Whoever helps you can influence your orientation.”

Moreover, this reality of tied Western aid explains the donors’ willingness to impose their agendas on our countries, even if their development projects sometimes clash with our moral, cultural, and religious values. Let us move forward while drawing inspiration from the achievements left by the great figures of our country. Let us remember the feats of Serigne Abdoullahi Mbacké, son of Serigne Touba, who in the 1950s managed to develop fields and fishing areas in Darou Rahmane, to the point that everything the local populations consumed came from these facilities, except for salt. The expression “ceebu daaru Rahmaan” is still fresh in people’s minds. Serigne Abdoullahi had shown us the way just before independence.

Today, the Covid-19 crisis, the war in Ukraine, and the resulting inflation have demonstrated the limits of an outward-looking economy. It is clear that the path to salvation lies in greater trust in the genius of Senegalese people and in endogenous solutions for sustainable economic development. Our food security, health, and economic and social development depend on it. We reiterate our call to current and future decision-makers to draw inspiration from the teachings of our religious and historical figures and adapt them to the realities of the modern world in order to achieve inclusive economic and social development. This can only be done by rethinking our education system to better adapt it to our socio-cultural and religious realities and by redirecting our development needs. In Touba, the most recent example is the leadership of the Eighth Khalifa General of the Mourides, Cheikh Mountakha Bachir Mbacké, who called on the Mourides to raise a fund of 37 billion to build the country’s largest private education and research complex. Its name is the Cheikh Ahmadoul Khadim Complex for Education and Training. The Mourides and their leader have piloted and brought to fruition this major initiative to train professionals and researchers in all fields of knowledge. Counting on oneself does not mean closing oneself off. We reaffirm the need to open up to the world for a partnership that benefits everyone. We need to achieve greater political, economic, cultural, and spiritual cohesion to grasp the hope of the times ahead. We need to be rooted in our cultural values before opening up to the world and participating in its progress with our identity.

To all political actors, we recall the advice of Imam Ali to Malick Al Ashtar, governor of Egypt:

“Let the most listened to among you be the one who will make you hear the most bitter truths, and the least listened to be the one who helps you do what Allah does not allow his representatives to do. Attach yourself to the pious and the honest: get them used to not flattering you, nor praising you for what you have not done, for flattery engenders vanity and leads to pride.”

Conclusion

The signatories of this DECLARATION call on all Senegalese citizens to work towards a peaceful, stable, and strengthened democracy in Senegal. In order to achieve this great aspiration, we reaffirm our commitment to:

• An independent and fair Justice system

• Transparency and good governance in public affairs

• Respect for the Constitution, particularly regarding the number of consecutive mandates

• Meeting social demand

• Preserving our religious and traditional values for a rooted society but open to the world

• Anchoring our education system in our basic values by adapting it to our development needs and the realities of the modern world

• Choosing endogenous development solutions drawn from the teachings of our great religious and historical figures, by trusting in the Senegalese genius while remaining open to any fair and equitable cooperation.

These objectives can only be fulfilled if peace and stability of the country are preserved. This is the meaning behind the words spoken in February 2023 by the Khalife Cheikh Mountakha Bachir Mbacké in Porokhane: “The development of the country necessarily depends on peace. This peace is first and foremost the responsibility of the authorities, as it is they whom Allah has entrusted with the leadership of the country. This peace should be obvious and easy to achieve for Senegal, given that Allah has blessed us with references of the caliber of a man of peace like Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba. However, peace necessarily depends on respect for the principles of righteousness and truth, njub ak dëgg.”

This means that peace is also the responsibility of everyone. To help each Senegalese achieve this ideal, Cheikhoul Khadim left us with this key formula: “To you who aspire to salvation, to peace, may goodness govern your intention, your speech, and your actions in every place and circumstance.”

Dear Senegalese compatriots, we must build for Senegal a work on a scale of history, a work that will have the power to lead. To achieve this noble objective, we extend our hands and ask the Almighty to bless and protect our dear country, Senegal, so that it may become a great crossroads of ideas, innovations, and the great values of the human nation.

Salaamun qawulann min Rabbin Rahiim. Peace be upon you! Salaam! is the word of welcome that a Merciful Master addresses to His guests. [36-58].

Senegal, the

Glossary

Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amadou_Bamba

Yërmaande:

General Khalifah: Supreme leader of the Mouride

Kun_Kaatiman: https://www.academia.edu/42840718/Kun_Kaatiman

Khalifa Omar Ibn Khattab: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Umar

laaj lu ñu man, def ko fu ñu xam:

Touba Ca Kanam:

kersa and tegin: respect for others & good manners

“jom, ngor, kersa, doylu, ande nawle”: dignity or self-respect,

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