Lebu people

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The Lebu (Lebou, Lébou) are an ethnic group of Senegal, West Africa, living on the peninsula of Cap-Vert, site of Dakar. The Lebu are primarily a fishing community, but they have a substantial business in construction supplies and real estate.[1][2] They speak Lebu Wolof, which is closely related to Wolof proper but is not intelligible with it.


The Lebu political and spiritual capital is at Layene, situated in the Yoff neighborhood of northern Dakar. The largely Lebu religious sect and theocracy, the Layene, are headquartered there.[1][3] In addition to Yoff, other Lebu centres are nearby Ouakam, Cambérène and Ngor.

Lebu society emphasizes piety and respect for elders. Lebu families include not only living people but also associated ancestral spirits. The Lebu are noted for their public exorcism dances and rituals, often attended by tourists. Most Lebu are adherents of Islam.[4]


The Lebu identity, separate from neighboring Wolof and Serer communities, goes back at least as far as the early 15th century, before European explorers arrived in the area.[5] The traditional date of the founding of Yoff is 1430.[citation needed]

Lebu traditions place their origins, like those of the Wolof and Serer, north of the Senegal river. There were Lebu at Lake Guiers by the 16th century, and by 1700 they had moved into the Cap Vert peninsula, expelling a few Mandinka tribes already there.[6]: 11  At the time the area was ruled by the Damel of Cayor.

In 1776 a marabout rebellion broke out in Cayor. When it was crushed, some of the defeated Muslims took refuge among the Lebou.[7] In 1790, despite the fact that most Lebous remained animist, Dial Diop [fr] led these marabouts to declare independence. After 20 years of war, in 1812 Cayor finally recognized their independence and Diop was proclaimed serigne (spiritual leader) of the community.[6]: 12  This 'Lebou Theocratic Republic' retains special legal autonomy to the present day.

Within the 'Lebou Republic', authority is vested in two assemblies: Diambouri Ndakarou and Diambouri Pintch, the assembly of Dakar and of the neighborhoods respectively. The neighborhood chiefs select the serigne from one of the Lebou aristocratic families, and he serves as a court of last resort. They also choose the diaraf, whose duty is to settle land and inheritance disputes. The Ndeyedy Rew serves as a sort of minister of interior and foreign affairs. Historically, he has managed relations with the French and served as the spokesperson for the community.[6]: 12 


  1. ^ a b Keese, Alexander, "Ethnicity and the Colonial State: Finding and Representing Group Identifications in a Coastal West African and Global Perspective (1850–1960)", BRILL (2015), p. 94, ISBN 9789004307353[1]
  2. ^ Gellar, Sheldon (2020). Senegal: An African Nation Between Islam And The West, Second Edition. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-000-31124-2.
  3. ^ Thomas, Douglas H., "Sufism, Mahdism and Nationalism: Limamou Laye and the Layennes of Senegal", A&C Black (2012), p. 57, ISBN 9781441169075 [2]
  4. ^ Yakan, Mohamad (2017). Almanac of African Peoples and Nations. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-351-28930-6.
  5. ^ Boulegue, Jean (2013). Les royaumes wolof dans l'espace sénégambien (XIIIe-XVIIIe siècle) (in French). Paris: Karthala Editions. p. 28.
  6. ^ a b c Johnson, Wesley (1971). 'The emergence of Black politics in Senegal:' the struggle for power in the four communes, 1900-1920. California: Stanford University Press. Retrieved 17 February 2024.
  7. ^ Monteil, Vincent (1963). "Lat-Dior, damel du Kayor (1842-1886) et l'islamisation des Wolofs". Archives de Sociologie des Religions. 8 (16): 78. doi:10.3406/assr.1963.2004. JSTOR 30127542. Retrieved 1 June 2023.

Related people[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • (in French) Armand-Pierre Angrand, Les Lébous de la presqu'île du Cap-vert. Essai sur leur histoire et leurs coutumes, Dakar, E. Gensul, 1946, 143 p.
  • (in French) Birahim Ba, La société lébu. La formation d’un peuple. La naissance d’un État, Dakar, Université de Dakar, 1972, 206 p. (Mémoire de maîtrise)
  • (in French) Georges Balandier et Pierre Mercier, Particularisme et évolution : les pêcheurs Lébou (Sénégal), Saint-Louis, Sénégal, Centre IFAN-Sénégal, 1952, 216p.
  • (in French) Adama Baytir Diop, La prise de position de la collectivité lebu en faveur du “oui” lors du référendum de 1958. Essai d’interprétation, Dakar, Université de Dakar, 1985, 51 p. (Diplôme d’études approfondies)
  • (in French) Adama Baytir Diop, La communauté lebu face aux développement de la politique coloniale : la question des terrains de Dakar (1887-1958), Dakar, Université Cheikh Anta Diop, 1995, 277 p. (thesis)
  • (in French) Cécile Laborde, La confrérie layenne et les Lébous du Sénégal : Islam et culture traditionnelle en Afrique, Bordeaux, Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Bordeaux, Université Montesquieu, 1995 ISBN 2908065304
  • (in French) Colette Le Cour Grandmaison, Rôles traditionnels féminins et urbanisation. Lébou et wolof de Dakar, Paris, EPHE, 1970, 4+310+23 p. (Thèse de 3e cycle, publiée en 1972 sous le titre Femmes dakaroises: rôles traditionnels féminins et urbanisation, Abidjan, Annales de l’Université d’Abidjan, 249 p.)
  • (in French) M. Mbodji, "Tiané, une jeune fille en quête d'initiation: rêver chez les Wolof-Lébou, ou comment communiquer avec les ancêtres?", dans Psychopathologie africaine, 1998–1999, vol. 29, n° 1, p. 7-21
  • (in French) Mariama Ndoye Mbengue, Introduction à la littérature orale léboue. Analyse ethno-sociologique et expression littéraire, Dakar, Université de Dakar, 1983, 378 p. (Thesis)
  • (in French) Médoune Paye, La collectivité lebu de Dakar : organisation, rôle politique dans les élections municipales de 1925 à 1934, Dakar, Université Cheikh Anta Diop, 2001, 118 p. (Master's thesis)
  • (in French) Ousmane Silla, Croyances et cultes syncrétiques des Lébous du Sénégal, Paris, EPHE, 1967, 517 p. (Thèse de 3e cycle)
  • (in French) Assane Sylla, Le Peuple Lébou de la presqu'île du Cap-Vert, Dakar, Les Nouvelles Éditions africaines du Sénégal, 1992, 135 p.
  • (in French) Tamsir Sylla, Introduction à un thème négligé : révoltes et résistances en milieu lebou au XIXe siècle. Approche critique des sources, Dakar, Université Cheikh Anta Diop, 1990, 36 p. (Mémoire de DEA)
  • (in French) Ibrahima Thiam, Ousmane Diop Coumba Pathé, personnalité politique lebu : 1867-1958, Dakar, Université de Dakar, 1987, 46 p. (Diplôme d’Études Approfondies)
  • (in French) Guy Thilmans, "Étude de quelques crânes lébou (Sénégal)", Bulletin de l'IFAN, 1968, t. 30, série B, 4, p. 1291-1297