Feb 19, 2012 (Weekend Edition Sunday) — Senegal’s capital of Dakar remains jittery, with demonstrators and police locked in running street battles. Some of the protests have been led by rap artists, who are mobilizing the youth and putting pressure on Senegal’s leader to step down.
Senegal’s capital of Dakar remains jittery, with youth and police locked in running street battles.
Riot police are firing tear gas on rock-throwing protesters who oppose President Abdoulaye Wade’s bid for a third term in office. With a week to go until the presidential vote, opposition demonstrations have been banned, but crowds have taken to the streets and the atmosphere is becoming increasingly tense.
Some of the protests have been led by rap artists. They have been mobilizing the youth and putting pressure on Senegal’s leader to step down.
They even have a name for their movement: Y’en a Marre. It means “We’re Fed Up. Enough is Enough.”
“The Y’en a Marre thing, everybody was Y’en a Marre inside their chest,” says Djily Baghdad, a rapper and founding member of the movement. “Everybody had that Y’en a Marre feeling. Everybody was fed up. So, as rap artists, we write songs to protest about how people are crying.”
The rappers have composed what’s become an opposition anthem, a song titled “Abdoulaye Faux! Pas Force,” or “Abdoulaye, don’t force it, give up!” You hear the song at Y’en a Marre’s outdoor gatherings, which attract hundreds of Senegalese youth. Independent analyst Babacar Justin Ndiaye says it’s ironic that the young people who helped propel Wade to power in 2000 have now turned against him.
Ndiaye says Wade has squandered the goodwill of young Senegalese, to whom he promised a sound education, good jobs and a stake in their country that once boasted a reputation as one of West Africa’s most stable and most democratic. That was 12 years ago. Now the youth is telling 85-year-old Wade to go.
“They’re forcing our hands to be violent,” Baghdad says. “As you see, all throughout Dakar, people are protesting — burning tires on the streets, throwing rocks [and] blocking roads and stuff. So, that’s the chaos Abdoulaye Wade wants to be; he’s forcing us to be violent.”
The president’s allies insist his third term bid, validated by Senegal’s top court, does not violate the constitution and that he’s staying in the presidential race. Wade’s interior minister, Ousmane Ngom, cites security reasons for the ban on demonstrations in downtown Dakar, describing recent protests in Dakar as a crime spree by vagrants and vagabonds.
But Baghdad says rappers are just trying to wake people up and convince the Senegalese that only the people can bring change.
“We have this slogan called NTS: New Type of Senegalese,” he says. “That’s what Y’en a Marre is trying to build, but [to] do it in the most peaceful way.”
The rappers, the opposition and other demonstrators vow they’ll continue to protest and make Senegal ungovernable unless Wade withdraws his candidacy ahead of next Sunday’s vote.