Dakar – Human rights campaigners in Senegal have called for an end to caste-based discrimination after village elders refused to allow the burial of a woman, reputedly to ward off misfortune.
The woman, who belonged to the griot caste known as musicians and traditional storytellers, died on December 25 and was finally buried in a neighbouring village after days of tense argument, local media reported Wednesday.
A video shared widely online in recent days showed a local woman complaining that the elders in the village of Pout Dagne, some 100km (63 miles) from the capital Dakar, had refused to allow the dead women to be laid to rest there.
In the video, the local woman called on President Macky Sall to intervene.
The resident complained that the elders “believe her burial in the village would bring misfortune.
“Why would we not have the right to bury our dead in our own country, as if we were not Senegalese?”
Several rights organisations said in a statement late Tuesday that they “strongly condemn this illegal act by the Pout Dagne village chief and call on the relevant state authorities to find a solution to this situation without delay.”
The organisations – the African Meeting for the Defense of Human Rights, the Senegalese League of Human Rights, Amnesty International Senegal and Afrikajom Centre – also urged the country’s religious authorities, Muslim and Christian, to continue efforts to end caste-based discrimination.
The groups said discrimination ran counter to the country’s laws as well as to the values propounded by its main religions.
Neither Dakar authorities nor the chief elder at Pout Dagne had any immediate comment.
In Western Africa Griots are considered as guardians of oral tradition and knowledge.
However in some parts of Senegal, an ancient belief persists that they are “impure”.
In the past griots were often buried in the crook of baobab trees, before state authorities banned the practice.
Pictures: Getty Images