By Sainey Faye
Ndatte Yalla Mboge (French Spelled “Ndatte Yalla Mbodj” ”Linguere” & The Last Queen of ‘Waalo’ Senegal (Northern Senegambia).
Ndate Yalla Mboge was known as the last queen of ‘Waalo’ in northern Senegal, and oral historians still carry her heroic deeds against the French colonialist. She is one of African heroines, that took on the African liberation struggle of the 19th century, in West Africa.She fought both the Moors who happen to encroach on her territory, and the colonialist army led by Louis Faidherbe the butcher, and bandit, who later became governor of St. Louis and colonial head of administration and army. He had impregnated her mistress, a young Malian girl named Diokunda Sidibeh; a Sarahule, and they had a boy; whilst on military service in Ndar (Saint Loius), Senegal. – then the capital of “Waalo”.
She was crowned the queen of Waalo on October I, 1846 at Ndar, now called St. Louis.Almost 10 years in her reign in 1855, she encountered the greatest colonialist pirate Faidherbe, with an army of 15,000 strong, fully armed and ready to fight her, dethrone her and colonize Waalo and Senegal.Faidherbe defeated her army in bloody battles, before capturing St. Louis.This conquest would forever change the trajectory of her reign and the geo-political, military, and geographical road map of Senegambia, “Ganaar” (now called Mauritania), Mali (formerly called French Sudan), and Fouta.
Her father was Brak Amar Fatim Borso Mbodj, and mother was linguere Awo Fatim Yamar Khuri Yaye Mboge.She had a son named Sidiya Leone Jobe (Fr. Sp. Diop), who would later too become an anti colonialist, and fight the French until his capture, and exile to die in Gabon in 1878.Her son Sidiya was captured as a hostage in St. Louis by General Faidherbe during their bloody war with Ndatte, and was baptized ‘Leone’ and sent to Algiers for schooling in 1861.When he returns to Senegal two years later in 1863, he was enlisted in the French colonial army; the first African or Senegalese to hold such a post.
But as the saying goes —like mother, like son, he refused to do their dirty job of joining forces with the European colonial foreigners and mercenary apparatus, against his mothers kingdom and people. He then changed strategy and rallied with Lat Dior and others, which resulted in his betrayal, and capture by the colonial forces; and exiled to Gabon where he died.
One of her attributes was her courageous stand to defend her territory, and stop the advance of General Faidherbe’s colonial army from advancing further into African territories, and setting up proxy states.A true resistant revolutionary freedom fighter, and one of Africa’s heroines who will always remembered for her gallant role and contributions for emancipation. She organized a strong army but lacked the ammunition and weapons to match the enemy; but nonetheless engaged them to the last moment before loosing the battles but the wars.
The fall of ”Waalo” by the French conquerors, led by governor Faidherbe in 1855, opened the route to which Africa was invaded by conquest on land and created new states and artificial boundaries; now called Mauritania and French Sudan (present day Mali).The fall of Waalo also triggered wars of resistance by other kingdoms in Senegambia, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Cote D’ivoire, etc. When ‘Waalo’ went down, it was followed by Cayor, Baol, Saloum, and Jollof. Sine was also one of the dominoes but not thru armed combat like the former. Kumba Ndoffen Famak Sedig Joof, the last king of Sine, put a fierce resistance against the French colonial mercenary army, slowing down their advance march through Saloum and Niani.
So did its southern cousins of present day Gambia, Casamance, and Kabbu of present day Guinea Bissau. The colonialist expansion of the French, British and Portuguese became more solidified as they went inland. This kingdom of ‘Waalo’ was in existence since 1287 A.D. and legendary figures like Ndiadiane Ndiaye have been associated with it by some oral historians especially his epics, which historians still debate about, and mimic in folklore songs. This kingdom has been known and listed by oral historians to have had 60 or more kings and queens; and Ndatte was the last to face the devil that was unchained – general Louis Faidherbe, France, and the Senegalese ‘trailleurs’ (sell outs/traitors).
The war of resistance against colonial incursion had been fought by many religious Jihadists earlier on, chief among them was the eminent scholar, cleric, “Waliou” – El Hadj Omar Taal (a.k.a. Omar Futio) of Fouta; with his followers in the western sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Senegal, Mali, Macina, Senegambia, Futa, Guinea, Burkina, Niger, Nigeria, etc. El Hadj Omar Taal, was a revolutionary political leader and tactician, apart from being a religious scholar and saint; according to some oral historians.He challenged the French colonial forces, and Faidherbe whose incursions seem unstoppable, and created an empire which included Kaarta, Bambouk, and Nioro as its capital, for Senegambia, Guinea, Mali, and elsewhere.This administration centers were well fortified and defended after his conquest, defeat and removal of corrupt and inefficient rulers, especially between 1850 and 1857.
In 1857, two years after the fall of Ndatte’s kingdom ‘Waalo’ in 1855, he confronted Faidherbe’s troops at Medina, and fierce fighting and also a bloody battle ensued; with heavy casualties on the colonial army.Then again in 1859, another war ensued at Matam – another part of his empire, a year later in 1860, the French signed a peace treaty. He created a vast muslim empire at Dinguiraye, and four years after the peace treaty failed in 1864, he captured the capital, which was known as Hamdallahi and dethroned ; the corrupt rulers and collaborators of Faidherbe and the French.From then on he took over Bandiagara in Mali, and established a vast territory of political, and educational elites along with he son Amadou Taal. The list of battles goes on and on, many too detailed to list here in this short piece.
His son Amadou Taal was also a fighter alongside his father, and became a leader in his own army against the invaders, and fought wars against his neighboring enemies, and the French forces at the same time.The French eventually signed a treaty with him too in 1887, but this too did not last long. In 1890, the French broke the treaty and attacked Segou his capital, he quickly took refuge next door in Macina, and continued to fight them in a protracted war until 1893.He died five years later in 1898, on the trail and along side his great father – who died 34 years earlier in 1864.
The legacy of El Hadj Omar Taal, and son and his great deeds and contributions are too great to list in a piece like this.His mention in the story of the rise and fall of ‘Waalo’ before and after Empress Ndatte Yalla Mboge; is only to enlighten and show the territories and proximity of Fouta,Waalo, Cayor, Baol, Mauritania, and Mali, and Senegambia, and Kabbu (now in Guinea Bissau). Also, to show a time line between 1827 to 1885; and after the Berlin Conference partitioned the entire sub-Saharan region into micro-states, now called countries.
It is noted that the great empires of the cultural zone namely Ghana, plus Wassoulou, Mali , Gao, Fouta-Toro, and Fouta-Djallon all developed under the influences of muslims clerics.With the fall of Mali and Gao in influence and centers of learning; Fouta-Toro, Fouta-Djallon and Wassoulou empires took up the momentum and founded and consolidated Islam and the muslim religion.Consequently, its leaders had to wage wars to consolidate their powers to build their empires; whilst making sure that they also have a unified kingdom.
Even though ‘Waalo’s ruling class were slow to convert to Islam, they accepted its role in the struggle against the colonialist infidels, and would become custodians of the the jihadists in the 19th century. El Hadj Omar Futio built a strong political and religious empire which challenged French colonialism, and extended all the way to Zaria and Kano , and in present day Nigeria.During his wars of liberation as some may call it, he built many learning centers, which today are being duplicated from Tivaoaune, Touba Mbacke, Medina Baye Niass, Medina Mass Kah (Gambia),Kerr Cherno Baba (Sobouldeh), Casamance, Ardo of (Macina), Kano, Zaria, Sokoto (Nigeria), Agadez (Niger), Kerr Cherno Alieu Jallow ( Janet Kolda) and many many others in Fouta Guinea, and Fouta Senegal. An outstanding eminent scholar, he wrote a lot of scholarly material in Arabic, amongst them ‘Al Rimah’ which explains the correct or right approach to his religious doctrine.
Today, in Senegambia and many of the above places named, the ‘Tijaniyah wirrda’ is common place amongst his followers.This order was passed onto him after the death of Ahmed Al Tijani, who was born in Algeria and later died in Fez (Fass) Morocco (cir. 1737 -1815), founded the order (cir.1781). The order became popular and famous also in Mauritania (Ganaar), part of which was ‘Waalo’ or northern present day Senegal.
Some oral historians have indicated that, two prominent Fulbe clerics from Futa Jallon – El hadj Omar taal and Abdul Karim An Naqil were amongst the first to be initiated, the former (El Hadj Omar) later went to Mecca and Medina (Saudi Arabia); to study.
After his completion, he was appointed Khalifa and/or representative leader of Western sub-Saharan Africa; he there after took on a holy war against corrupt and inefficient regimes in the region, making win many wars and battles, and acquire a large political and religious empire.He too later lost to French colonialism, but not before laying the foundations and spreading Islam in Senegambia, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigerai,Burkina Fasso, etc.
One of many of his disciples, El hadj Malick Sy (a.k.a. El Hadj Malick) born around 1855 near Dagana, a former capital of Queen Ndate Yalla Mboge, helped build what is now called the Tijani movement.
In and around 1902, he founded a center for Islamic education, culture, social responsibility (a.k.a.Zawiya) in what is today called Tivaoune.He passed away in 1922, and his son Ababacar Sy took over as (Khalifa), to be followed by El Hadj Abdoul Aziz Sy, and now Elhadj Mansour Sy.
Cheikh Amadou Bamba, was also one of those who took inspiration and was one of the disciples; who was an anti-colonialist. His story against Faidherbe, and the colonialists is well known, before and after his exile from Senegal to Gabon.In exile he was in company with Almamy Samory Toure (another anti-colonialist) and jihadist; whose territory was encroached by forces after the fall of ‘Waalo’ and other nearby territory of Wassoulu (now known as Cote D’ivoire) a.k.a. Ivory coast and Salone (a.k.a. Sierra Leone).
Dagana, Macina, Bangjagara, Nioro, were great centers of learning by muslim scholars, and many like well known clerics are known to have connections from like Abdoulaye Niass, (the father) of Elhadj Ibrahima Niass (a.k.a. Baye Niass).Abdoulaye Niass too had confrontations with the invading colonialists and their army, after which he took refuge in Gambia for a while.With his fellow cleric and brother in struggle – Mam Mass Kah on the North bank; their co-ordination became mutual and effective.The latter, Baye Niass built in Kaolack a big learning center; known as Medina Baye in 1930 and grown with followers all around the world, including the U.S.A and the Carribbean.
It is estimated that the number of students studying in Arabic schools were in the thousands, ten to twenty times the amount of students in western educated Christian schools.Yet, when the cases were raised with the colonial administrators to build more schools for muslim students and scholars; they flatly refused.Many muslim scholars took it upon themselves to build schools with little or no funding from the colons; and produced a literacy rate high enough to be the envy of the colonial administrators in many of their conquered regions.Many students learned to read and write in Arabic, went to Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Mecca, Medina, Algeria,Mauritania, Sudan, etc. to further studies in many various fields and professions.These and many others debunked the notion and illusion that one has be western educated in order to be educated.It even became customary for some of us to be educated in Koranic schools first, before we start western education in the colonial and post colonial period; this practice still continues.
Mabba Jaxu Ba, a Jihadist scholar and cleric and follower of El hadj Umar Taal; was also a staunch anti colonialist who fought against the French and British, and had allies and followers like Foday Kabba Dumbuya. Foday Kabba Dumbuya was also a stong anti colonialist fighter, and muslim jihadist who fought in intermittent and protracted wars in both Gambia, Casamance, and Guinea Bissau.
The fall of Ndatte Yalla Mboge and her kingdom, help rally other leaders both political and religious to take the intrusion of colonialists and colonialism seriously, and the struggle to halt it was the duty of many in the 19th century.They continued the struggle until the latter quarter of the twentieth century ……winning some loosing
some, like all wars of resistance.Even today, the young musicians like the late Ndongo Lo, Youssou Ndour, etc. and the oldies locals like the late Sait Camara, Samba Jabareh Samba, Harrmajaga, etc. all honor “Waalo Mboge” in their songs and lyrics.
Lat Dior Diop, damel (king) of Cayor later converted to Islam, after asking Maba Jaxu Ba damel of Saloum; for help regain his kingdom from the French and Faiddherbe. This was one of the first conditions asked of him by Maba, before Maba agreed to ally with him to fight Burr Sine, and his enemies in Baol and Cayor – especially the French colonial army.He died fighting at a very young age, he lost to the French and Faidherbe’s army in 1868, but fought back to regain the Independence of Cayor again in 1871.He again lost it to the invaders after one of the bloodiest battles recalled in Senegambian history, but was defeated and his kingdom of Cayor was once again totally taken over, fragmented and destroyed; never to become a sovereign state/kingdom in 1886; after he was killed in 1886 along with his gallant brethren and nationalist liberators and fighters.He too is often sung in songs, both old and new.He died at age 42, in October 26th 1886 with two of his sons; and his famous horse “Malaw” has a statue on Avenue Malick Sy, in Dakar Senegal.
In the town of Dagana, in northern Senegal; there is a statue of her – being the first and only Princess/Queen (Linguere) to be so honored nation wide.What a rare Heroine Princess !!! One of her attributes was her courageous stand to defend her territory, and stop the advance of General Faidherbe’s colonial army from advancing further into African territories, and setting up proxy states.A true resistant revolutionary freedom fighter, and one of Africa’s heroines who will always be remembered for her gallant role and contributions for emancipation. “Waalo Mboge Sa Warrwa Settna …………….Marr Naan Marrul Nann” “Chei Waalo Mboge”
Inspirational Stuff Musa, Thanks! Over in Ethiopia after the 1884 Berlin Conference we were also invaded in 1896, fortunately by 30,000 clueless Italians. We subjected them to a surprise dawn attack, killed 20,000 of them including 4 “Generals” and the survivors ran away home – only to return briefly as Fascist Italy’s Second World War Army (Haile Selasie’s famous speech “War” has been immortalised by the immortal Robert Nesta Marley).
I love the piece. I am always fascinated by west African history particularly Mali, kabu and the jollof federation.
Musa, you say the town of “Dagana”. Please, what does the word “dagana” mean? There is this superb song called “dagana” – by the late legendary Ali Farka Toure. I keeping singing along “dagana”, “dagana”, but it would be nice to know what it means. Thanks in advance – your Malian-immigrant-to-Gambia (ha ha) colleague at Kairo News, Suntou Touray, may know!
Maba Jahu Bah sent his son, Sait Maty Bah, on an expedition to The Gambia with an army of religious fighters. He died there and was buried at Cape Point, Bakau. He was earlier defeated by army of the king of Nuimi twice. His son, Momodou Lamin,(grandson of Maba Jahu) Bah later became the Imam Ratib of Banjul
Oh very nice; interesting I love it thanks all