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Cablegate: Mouride Khalif Bans Politics in Touba

VZCZCXRO0205
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHDK #1774 2061048
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 251048Z JUL 06
FM AMEMBASSY DAKAR
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHC 5840
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS DAKAR 001774

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

DEPT FOR AFW, AF/RSA, DRL AND INR/AA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KISL SG
SUBJECT: MOURIDE KHALIF BANS POLITICS IN TOUBA

REF: A. DAKAR 1427
B. DAKAR 1149
C. 05 DAKAR 3108

SUMMARY
-------
1. (SBU) The Mouride Khalif has banned campaigning in his
brotherhood's capital. As Senegal's fastest growing city,
with at least half 800,000 souls, Touba looked to become a
political battleground for 2007 elections. The holy city
by tradition has no polling station, and was considered
politically off-limits until Mouride Abdoulaye Wade
campaigned there in 2000. While Mourides are by no means
a monolithic bloc, Wade presumably retains sympathy there,
so the ban on campaigning will not help him. END SUMMARY.

VOTE WITH YOUR FEET
-------------------
2. (SBU) Mouride religious leaders allow GOS services and
civil servants to operate in Touba, but the city remains
in many ways independent of central government and the
state recognizes the Khalif's powers and prerogatives (Ref
C). The ban on campaigning followed a recent incident in
which dissidents in Wade's ruling Senegalese Democratic
Party (PDS), threw stones at national party leaders. The
Khalif will allow voter registration, but, as in the past,
he will probably exclude polling booths and Toubiens will
need to go to neighboring MBacke to vote.

DANCE THE NIGHT AWAY
--------------------
3. (SBU) While there are partisan divisions in Touba, the
ban on campaigning will probably hurt Wade more than
anyone else, since he is the only serious Mouride
presidential candidate. The Khalif and his advisers,
though, are not casting the ban primarily as a show of
political neutrality. Rather, they describe it as a way
of renewing the city's spiritual anchoring in Islam and as
a rejection of the permissive society they see infecting
the holy city. Traditionalists around the aging Khalif
particularly deplore the "cultural animation" -- music and
dancing -- that accompany political rallies.

COMMENT
-------
4. (SBU) The Khalif is pushing 90 and only dimly aware of
what is going on in the city, so the campaign ban comes
from his entourage. For them, banning open political
competition, and doing so by emphasizing the dictates of
spiritual purity, is a way to restrain the secularization
of power and defend their prerogatives. Still, the fact
that the ban is widely seen as the Khalif's reaction to an
incident of political violence does serve as a positive
reminder to the country's leaders that the brotherhoods
stand for peace and the democratic consensus. END
COMMENT.

JACOBS

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