Lat Jor: The only Senegalese hero to defeat the French in multiple battles in the 1800s

The terrifying events that characterize the French dominance during the days of colonialism made heroes out of some Africans who exhibited valor to help liberate their people. The story of the Senegalese martyr Lat Dior, the warrior who belong to a dynasty that has ruled Baol and Cayor for centuries is one worth visiting.

The fate of the Senegalese to lead his people after the death of his elder brother King Birma Ngone Latyr in 1859 was nearly tempered with by invasions of Cayor by the French colonial government under the leadership of Governor Louis Faidherbe; he was left with no option than to take the leadership mantle as the king of Cayor and defend not only his subjects but other territories that face threats from the French.

His admirable exploits on the battle field were deeply planted in the minds and oral tradition of the people; he took advantage of the gross inexperience of the French troop when it comes to land battles and led his army to defeat them in several battles until his final fall.

Dior by experience was good at setting guet apens traps and leading the French soldiers into it where they are apprehended and beaten. With his mastery over the French in battle, he was considered by many as their savior and he formed allies with other states/factions to resist French colonialism in the West African state. 

One thing that characterize this hero is the fact that, he vowed to defend his people against the French invasion and he has been credited by history to be the only Senegalese hero who ever succeeded in defeating the French army. Notable among his battles against the French establishment, many of which he won was how he fought the French invasion of Cayor territory, the koki war in 1861, the Ngol Ngol battle in 1863, fought for the people of Loro in 1864 and also against the French in the battle of Rip in 1865.

All these made him a prime target of the then French establishment which launched a fierce attack on him after he decided to finally construct a railway line from his native land to Dakar and also establish a groundnut farm which the French saw as a threat or plan to take control and went into a full flare battle with Dior in 1886 which saw his final defeat and death as a true martyr.

Even though Dior and his army were defeated, their resilience was recognized by the then French Governor Louis Faidherbe who stated that “They (Dior and his army) can be killed but not dishonored;” a statement which has been adopted as the motto of the Senegalese Army. “On nous tue, on ne nous deshonore pas.”

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