Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade is again caught in the middle of a nationwide controversy, this time regarding his religious beliefs after revelations made by the French weekly l’Express about his membership of a freemason association.
In Senegal, a predominantly Muslim country, freemasonry is viewed very suspiciously.
It is usually associated with sectarianism, rejection of God, shady and satanic practices and more importantly as a practice incompatible with Islam.
Until the revelations were made, President Wade has always presented himself publicly as a devout Muslim and a member of the ‘mouride’ community, one of the main Muslim brotherhoods in the country.
The debate about Mr Wade’s religious allegiances started when on February 3, the French weekly l’Express published a story about several African heads of states having links with the freemason’s movement.
“In Senegal, Abdoulaye Wade was earlier initiated in Besançon (Eastern France) and is a ‘dormant mason’, the weekly wrote.
In a note sent to the French publication, the Senegalese president denied being a member anymore.
He said he resigned long ago. But he also openly admitted that he had been a member of a freemason movement in the past, out of “intellectual curiosity”, thus generating more controversy in the country where freemasons, rightly or wrongly, are viewed as a sect opposed to God’s supremacy.
In his answer to the article accusing him of being a freemason, Mr Wade wrote “It’s true, but I have to specify that I am not a ‘dormant mason’. I was deprived of my membership after a voluntary resignation.”
Following the revelations, one Member of Parliament, Imam Mbaye Niang, who defends Islamic views said the president should resign.
The allegiance of francophone heads of state to freemason movements is a matter of great speculation here and a subject that comes up in the media every now and then.
According to l’Express, only the Gabonese president El Hadji Omar Bongo Ondimba openly admits his belonging to freemasonry while many other leaders in West and Central Africa are reported to be active but “hidden” members.