Memories of the Wollof Queen who defended Senegal against French invasion in the 1800s live on forever

The invasion and tearing up of Africa happened on so many fronts and parts of the continent. Sometimes, it is believed that all the wars and brave resistances from Africans were not fully captured or reported. However, those brave Africans who defended our motherland will always be spoken about with pride.

Africa did not just surrender to the wickedness of the Europeans. We fought back for hundreds of years. And each time, we defeated the enemy. Each time, they came back stronger and more determined to kill, loot, destroy, rape and rule, we beat them again and the trend went on and on.

With more guns and poisons, they came. Still, we fought till we could fight no more. Because we realized that they were determined to kill us all if we continued fighting. So we surrendered, hoping that the enemy would steal and leave. 

It is very rare to talk about the history of Africans who fought against colonial invasion without remembering Queen of Wolof, Ndate Yalla Mbodj.

Ndate Yalla Mbodj was the second daughter of the Waalo Queen and King, who was also known as (Brack) Amar Borso Mbodj. The Wolof Empire of Jolof was created in the 14th century. However, the empire fell apart and the Jolof, Waalo, Baol and Cayor States were created. 

Since some African empires practiced Matriarchy, the Lingeers; who were the Waalo women of royal blood, held power. The Lingeer gave her husband permission to rule as King.

Lingeer Fatim Mbodj, according to tradition, gave her husband Brack Amar Borso Mbodj permission to rule. They both had two daughters, Ndjeumbet and Ndate Yalla from their union, and they were both raised by their mother to manage and defend Waalo.

 In 1820, the Moors – who were known for slave trading – tried to invade the land while the Brack was away for health reasons. Lingeer Fatim, alongside her female warriors, disguised themselves as men and repelled the Moors.

The Moors, on finding out that they were women, attacked the land brutally a second time. This time, Lingeer Fatim and her warriors were sure that they had lost to the Moors, and rather than be captured, they collectively killed themselves in a fire.

Their suicide allowed only Ndjeumbet and Ndate Yalla escape so that they could carry on in power at only 12 and 10 years respectively.

The two princesses took over Waalo, and appointed their cousin Malick Mambodj as the Brack. It was just a secondary position. Ndjeumbet died in 1846 and Ndate Yalla became the sole ruler of Wallo at 36 years of age.

In 1848, the French colonization of Senegal, which started from Saint Louis became official. The Queen opposed the expansion of the French colony vehemently so that she was recognized as a major regent by the French colonizers.

She once wrote to the colonial governor, Faidherbe Louis, regarding the French occupation plan of Mboyo Islands saying:

“The purpose of this letter is to let you know that Mboyo Island belongs to me, from my Grand Father to me today. Nobody can state that this country belongs to them, it is the only mine.”

Queen Ndate Yalla alongside her troop, waged several battles against the French colonizers and she denied the Sarakollé people who supplied Saint Louis with livestock access to her territory. When she was faced with stronger opposition from the French colonizers, she looted the markets around Saint Louis.

In response, the governor wrote her saying;

 “If you want our relation to remaining sound, you must give back the 16 oxen you’re holding. Otherwise, I shall become your enemy and that would be your fault.”

 This did not deter the Queen, but instead, she further opposed the French colonizers through battles and hindered part of their business. 

In 1855, the French colonizers sent a 15,000 man army to subdue Queen Ndate Yalla, at the time of the great battle, but the Queen said:

“Today we have been attacked by the invaders. Our army is in disarray, virtually all Waalo tiédos, though brave; fell under the enemy’s bullet. The invader is stronger than us I acknowledge but should we give away Waalo to foreigners?”

She was defeated in that war and Waalo became a French colony. Eventually, she died five years later. Her son, Prince Sidya Ndatte Yalla Diop, was also captured by Governor Faidherbe and renamed Leon.

 He was later sent to a French school in Saint Louis and later on to Algiers where they tried to tame him into becoming a colonial representative. However, Sidya Diop at 17 years old, returned to his homeland and rejected his French name, language, and outfits and took up to his mother’s legacy.

Sidya Diop set up a large resistance movement and a very powerful army. He became a terror to the French occupation and caused them to record huge losses.

He was at the verge of setting up a national freedom movement when he was betrayed and apprehended by the French after some fierce brawls, later to be exiled to Gabon.

Out of despair from never returning to his homeland, Prince Sidya Diop committed suicide at age 30.

Prince Sidya Ndate Yalla Diop, like his mother, Queen Ndate Yalla, remains one of Africa’s finest heroes who fought against the colonial occupation of Senegal with all that they had.