Influential Brokers: The Murid Marabouts of Central Senegal



Senegal’s quintessential political brokers have been the marabouts, Sufi clerics whose religious authority has translated into political influence over their disciples and thus political capital with Senegalese politicians. Historically, Senegalese marabouts have not held leadership positions in political parties or the state, but have served as the grands électeurs (great electors), mobilizing large blocs of votes particularly among the Wolof, Senegal’s largest ethnic group, which has historically occupied central Senegal. Among the Sufi brotherhoods in Senegal, the Muridiya is considered the most powerful although it does not have the largest following (appendix 1). This power is typically attributed to its reputation for subservient taalibe (disciples) who adhere to their marabouts’ advice in political as well as socio-religious matters.1 While many non-Murids have depicted them as “blindly obedient” to the wishes of their marabout, various Murid informants have also proudly described themselves as “fanatique,” although this may be more accurately translated as “fervently devout” rather than “fanatic” since Murids do not associate their “fanaticism” with the negative normative view that this word conjures up in a Western context.


Presidential Election Political Competition Political Preference Electoral Politics Opposition Parti 
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© Linda J. Beck 2008

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