Aline Sitoé Diatta, The Dame of Kabrousse
Aline Sitoé Diatta (c1920 – 1944) was an anti-colonial resistance figure and community leader in the Casamance region, in actual Senegal. Married to Thomas Diatta, a dockworker at the Port of Senegal, she was one of the women in Francophone Africa who led anti-colonial campaigns during the period of the Second World War following a divine vision in 1941, which called upon her to struggle against the French colonial forces. When the French seized half of the region’s rice harvest to support the war effort, Aline Sitoé Diatta began her campaign alongside other market women. She encouraged the population to civil disobedience, to stop paying taxes, and to reject calls to replace rice cultivation with the growing monoculture of arachide (peanuts). Aline Sitoé Diatta also called for reinstatement of better working conditions and rights to religious worship. She was perceived as having supernatural powers, in particular the ability to bring rain to the parched land. The French forces made several attempts on her life. She was arrested on 8 May 1943 and deported to Gambia and then Mali, where she died a year later in prison, out of harsh treatments and malnourishment.
Aline Sitoé Diatta remains a national heroine figure in Senegal. Since the 1980s, her story has been recuperated in different ways and for different purposes, in connection with the separatist movement in the Casamance region (Toliver-Diallo). The main ferry from Casamance to the capital Dakar is named after her, as well as the women’s university halls of residence at the Université Cheikh Anta Diop.