Major religious festival commences

By Kemo Cham
Senegal is presently hosting one of the biggest religious gatherings in the world, with an expected three million people arriving at the religious city of Touba, home of Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba, founder and chief proponent of the Mourid Muslim sect, for the annual religious rite of Magal. This occasion, which officially commences Wednesday, February 3, commemorates the return of Serign Bamba, as the highly revered religious leader is fondly called, from exile in Gabon in 1902. Serign Mamba was banished there by colonialist Europeans as punishment for resisting their attempt to conquer his people. The Mourids are predominantly found in the region of Senegambia (covering Senegal and Gambia), with some packets of followers in neighboring countries like Mauritania, Mali, Guinea and Guinea Bissau. There are even accounts of a few admirers in as far as Nigeria. In Senegal, a country where the people view religious sects with profound enthusiasm, the Mourids form the biggest part of the population, wielding tremendous influence at almost all levels, which occasionally tends to be exploited by politicians. The country’s leader, President Abdoulie, himself a Mourid, is expected to be among worshipers. Mr Wade has come under attack otouba_mosquen several occasions for actions often interpreted as directed on that line. He makes frequent visits there, and often does not make any effort to hide his urge for support on religious lines.  Given the enormity of the population, the annual Magal of Touba has hardly been devoid of incidents, and so the authorities have been putting up tight measures in place to curb any recurrence of past incidents. However, the event has proven to be one of the deadliest ventures for careless drivers. Just last Tuesday, there were reports of a fatal accident involving two vehicles, one of which was headed for the religious city. At least 13 people lost their lives. Majority of the Mourid pilgrims board overloaded cars, buses and trucks, rushing to Touba each year, mostly during the last 24 hours preceding the events, therefore causing huge traffic jams on the roads that lead to the city of Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba. The authorities are however keen to ensure a relatively comfortable pilgrimage this year. Senelec, the country’s water and electricity services provider, has just made the final adjustments on months of works geared towards improving on the electricity network, maintenance, and supply of fuel, to ensure complete distribution and without interruption. And as a precautionary measure, four sets of 800 KWA generators are reserved as backup to conventional energy supply, reported US based Senegalese online news site, Seneweb. The national telecommunications company, Sonatel, has also committed to maintaining its telephone system, promising to boost it services to make for a live television broadcast of the major events.

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