Prayer Profile
The Malinke of Senegal

[IMAGE] The Malinke, or Mandinka, live scattered throughout West Africa. More than 315,000 of them live in Senegal, primarily in the Casamance region. During the 1800's, Muslims from Gambia played a role in bringing Islam to Casamance; and today, 90% of the Malinke are Sunni Muslims. All over West Africa the Malinke, formerly a trading people, have become powerful merchants, civil servants, and religious leaders.

The Malinke originated in the state of Manding, during the ancient empire of Mali, in the twelfth century. Manding gained her independence in 1235 A.D., which laid the foundation for Malinke greatness and expansion into the rest of West Africa. They moved in small groups west and southwest from Manding in search of better farmlands, establishing various Malinke states and kingdoms along the way. Many settled in Senegal, where the climate and well-watered land were more favorable than that of Mali.

What are their lives like?
The Malinke speak a Manding language from the Niger-Congo language family. They base their livelihood on agriculture and some animal husbandry. Sorghum, millet, peanuts, beans, sweet potatoes, maize, and cotton are their primary crops. Goats and sheep are tended, and cattle are kept as a sign of wealth. However, the milk is not drunk and butter is not made. Bees are raised for honey.

The Malinke men hunt, fish, herd the livestock, and do most of the agricultural work. The women help the men do the planting and harvesting, and are also responsible for domestic chores. They gather nuts, berries, and special leaves for medicines in the forest outside their villages. Malinke men sometimes set up or work for small, part-time businesses to supplement their incomes.

The Malinke live in walled, compact villages and towns. Their houses are grouped according to family ties, with each extended family occupying a compound. A number of these compounds compose a village. Each village has a headman who acts as judge over the village. He handles disputes and helps the council of elders. He also engages in important religious functions.

Most Malinke live in huts that are round or rectangular with walls made of sun-dried brick and roofs made of thatched grass. Many young, unmarried men occupy separate bachelor quarters in the same compound as their fathers. This practice has been the norm for many years.

Traditionally, a man's wife moved into her father-in-law's compound upon marriage. However, the recent trend is for the wife to leave her father's compound sometimes even before marriage. This practice has slightly weakened the extended family as an economic unit.

The Malinke have many elaborate ceremonies associated with the different societies and initiation rites of their culture. Both boys and girls are initiated into puberty. Men are initiated and advanced in their hierarchical society, the komo. Women also have their own secret society.

What are their beliefs?
Ninety percent of the Malinke of Senegal are Muslim. However, their Islamic beliefs have been blended with their traditional beliefs, which involved worshipping the spirits of the land. Healing, magic, and divination are also important aspects of their traditional religion. It is not uncommon for someone to first pray in the village mosque, then sacrifice a chicken to the "village spirit."

Many of the Malinke consult marabouts (Muslim holy men) for healing, protective amulets, or insight into the future. Educated villagers may conceal their beliefs in magic, yet, most of them still carry amulets.

What are their needs?
Less than one percent of the Malinke in Senegal are Christians. Although Christian resources are available to them, the Malinke seem extremely devoted to their own beliefs. Prayer is the main key to opening the hearts of the Malinke to the Gospel.

Prayer Points

  • Ask the Lord of the harvest to thrust forth long-term Christian laborers into Senegal.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom and favor to the three missions agencies that are currently targeting the Malinke.
  • Pray for effectiveness of the Jesus film among the Malinke.
  • Pray that God will reveal Himself to the Malinke through dreams and visions.
  • Pray that God will give the Malinke believers boldness to share Christ with their own people.
  • Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that have kept the Malinke bound for many generations.
  • Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
  • Ask the Lord to bring forth a triumphant Malinke church for the glory of His name!

See also the following related groups:
The Maninka of Guinea Bissau, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia;
the Ivorian Malinke of Coté d'Ivoire;
the Mandinka of Senegal and Gambia;
and the Malinke of Burkina Faso, and Guinea Bissau.

Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.


  • People name: Malinke
  • Country: Senegal
  • Their language: Malinke
  • Population: (1990) 277,700
    (1995) 315,000
    (2000) 359,900
  • Largest religion: Muslim (Sunni) 90%
    Ethnic religionist 9.5%
  • Christians: <1%
  • Church members: 1,575
  • Scriptures in their own language: Portions
  • Jesus Film in their own language: Available
  • Christian broadcasts in their own language: Available
  • Mission agencies working among this people: 3
  • Persons who have heard the Gospel: 118,100 (38%) Those evangelized by local Christians: 17,300 (6%)
    Those evangelized from the outside: 100,800 (32%)
  • Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 196,900 (62%)
  • Country: Senegal
  • Population: (1990) 7,326,500
    (1995) 8,311,600
    (2000) 9,495,200
  • Major peoples in size order: Wolof 34.7%
    Fulakunda 12.4%
    Serer-Sine 11.2%
    Tukulor 8.7%
    Mandinka 5.9%
  • Major religions: Muslim 90.5%
    Chirstian 5.8%
    Ethnic religionist 3.5%
  • Number of denominations: 17

© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center

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