Published:30 Jan, 2012


“We are ready to be imprisoned, tortured and die if necessary. Enough is enough.” This is the clarion call of a non-violent Senegalese youth movement collectively known as Y’en a marre (Enough is enough).

They are in their early twenties, wear baggy clothes, and have unruly hair at times hidden under distinctive woolen hats—a far cry from the series of diplomats, politicians, analysts, and religious authorities our delegation met in September as part of a visit to Senegal to investigate the political landscape ahead of next year’s elections. This group of less-traditional interlocutors is inspired by Senegal’s hip-hop and rap artists and is bent on preventing their President from “manipulating the constitution and presenting a third, unconstitutional candidature.” They are also actively promoting civic education through their music.

The severity of their message belies the common image of Senegal, a country known for its beaches, comparatively well developed infrastructure, the harmonious coexistence of religious and linguistic groups, and a tradition of democratic elections held regularly since it gained independence fromFrance in 1960. This is the image that makes it a “donor darling” and a driver of change in West Africa, a region otherwise characterised by unconstitutional changes of power (euphemism for repeated coup d’état), massacres, and endemic poverty amidst an abundance of natural resources.

It is also a country where a majority of the population of just over 12.5 million is under 25. In electoral terms this equals more than a million new voters since the 2007 elections and a youth vote that could tip the scale in the ballots scheduled for the end of February 2012. President Abdoulaye Wade is all too aware of this nascent political force.

The Socialist Party’s 40-year domination came to an end in March 2000, when Wade, the leader of the Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS), won the presidency. One year later, free and fair legislative elections conferred a parliamentary majority to the President’s coalition. The 2007 presidential and legislative elections, facilitated by an opposition boycott, maintained the configuration. However the government’s inability to deliver and the deteriorating socio-economic situation resulted in the opposition making substantial gains in nationwide local elections in 2009.

During his tenure Wade has worked tirelessly to turn Senegalinto a “family-run patrimonial state.” To preserve it, he has tried to change the constitution twice and intends to run for president in 2012, when he will be 84. Opinions differ on whether the constitution allows him to do so, and the final verdict on his eligibility rests with the Constitutional Council. Their decision is due only one month ahead of the elections. In the meantime, the opposition has become polarized and divided: several opposition platforms exist, testimony to Senegal’s rich political participation and civil society activism, but they are unable to come forward with a unified agenda, let alone agree on a common candidate.

Challenging commonly held assumptions about the country and highlighting the dangers of democratic relapse, is not an easy task. Power squabbles have intensified and have taken on life-or-death importance. There is a dearth of practical solutions to unavoidable yet predictable problems.

Take rainfall for example. In August 2009, 360,000 people were affected by country-wide floods. The lack of a functioning drainage system largely contributed to the catastrophic results. Since then there has been no progress and thousands of families were displaced during the storms this year. Electricity is another issue; Senegalese experience daily power-cuts that last for hours due to a deteriorating infrastructure that needs investment—a costly undertaking. The economy remains stagnant but no structural policies have been set in place to diversify agricultural production. Security in the Casamance region, where a separatist movement has been active since the early 1980s, is fragile at best. A peace agreement signed in 2004 after 20 years of rebel activities has only resulted in conflict limbo: no war but no peace either.

More importantly, the political culture developed in Senegal through decades of peaceful interreligious cohabitation, media freedom, high levels of education, and a vibrant and well organized civil society seems to have been weakened under Wade’s presidency. The spirit of a recent law on decentralization appears to have been ignored as the government has reconfigured electoral districts and replaced locally elected authorities with nominated officials. The distribution of electoral cards is contingent upon receiving an identity card and there is a strong suspicion that administrative impediments are set in place to delay their delivery. Voters’ registration is slow, more difficult in remote areas, and opposition parties often do not have the means to reach their constituencies or be present at registration. Organizational chaos is threatening the legitimacy of the elections and undermining the opposition’s confidence in the possibility to win free and fair elections. To make matters worse, media harassment has increased.

Senegal’s long-standing relations with donors make their engagement of paramount importance. The U.S., Switzerland, Canada, the United Nations, the European Union, Germany, and some private foundations have been actively engaged monitoring the electoral process and ensuring implementation of corrective measures. The government has yet to pronounce itself clearly on international election monitoring: declarations by official representatives seem to indicate some openness to the idea whilst official invitations have yet to be issued.

Senegal’s largely democratic and peaceful trajectory is an extraordinary achievement that sets it ahead of many African countries. This legacy is at risk of being lost under political imbroglios. It is in the best interest of Senegal, the entire region, and of the donor community, that the country’s positive inheritance reaches the next generation.

Underneath their baggy pants and woollen hats, the youth may not have all the answers, but they are key to the future.

| by Marta Martinelli

Related Posts

Recent Posts

After 42 Days In Kidnappers’ Den: Corps Member, Teachers, Guard Freed

Exactly 42 days after being in the kidnappers den, a National Youth Corps member, three teachers and a security guard at the State Secondary School in Agban-Ndele in Ndele community in Emohua Local Government Area of Rivers State, have regained their freedom.   It was not clear at press time if ransom was paid and how much.   The Paramount ruler of Ndele community, Eze Godwin Iraowusi, confirmed the report Wednesday morning but gave no further details.   The corps member, three teachers and the...

President Buhari To Have Final Say On Decision For MTN N1.4 trillion Fine

It appears the onus if on President Muhammadu Buhari, to take a decision on the issue of the N1.4 trillion fine imposed on MTN Nigeria bu the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC). Adebayo Shittu, the Minister of Communications, made this disclosure on Tuesday, at the Alliance 4 Affordable Internet Nigeria Coalition conference in Lagos. He said the fine imposed on MTN was in the interest of Nigerians, adding that the telecommunications company had already apologised, and...

N1tn fine: Buhari’ll Decide MTN’s Fate, Says Minister

The Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu, said on Tuesday that President Muhammadu Buhari would decide MTN Nigeria’s fate regarding the N1.04tn fine imposed on it by the Nigerian Communications Commission.   He stated that the President would take the final decision on the matter at the appropriate time and “in the public interest.” The minister also said that Buhari’s decision would be on the basis that the “government and MTN are on the same page that rules had been...

Cocu: I Hope Man Utd Fans Don’t Boo Moreno

The Mexican defender is expected to be targeted by the home fans after he injured Luke Shaw in their last encounter but the PSV coach hopes that is not the case PSV coach Philip Cocu is hopeful Manchester United supporters will be forgiving of Hector Moreno, who inflicted a broken leg on

“I’ve No Doubt HID Awolowo Is In Heaven” – Pastor Adeboye

The General Overseer of The Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, yesterday declared that he is confident that the matriarch of the Awolowo family, Chief (Mrs) Hannah Idowu Dideolu Awolowo, is resting with the Lord. Adeboye, who spoke while holding a private prayer session with the family inside their Ikenne country home, said: “By the special grace of God and because of my interaction with Mama, I have no doubt at all that she...

Wale Bakare: Why The 8th Senate Is Not Opposed To The Implementation Of Treasury Single Account

The announcement by President Buhari at a public function to adopt a single treasury accounts for all revenues due to the government and its agencies has continued to elicit controversies from different quarters. The Treasury Single Account (TSA) is an initiative that should be welcomed by all and economic pundits have argued that these steps are necessary to improve appropriation control and enable efficient cash management. The impunity that permeated the previous administration affected...

Russia Suspends Military Cooperation With Turkey

Russia’s defence ministry has announced suspension of military cooperation with Turkey and Sergey Lavrov, foreign minister, has cancelled a planned trip to Turkey following the downing of a Russian warplane near the Turkey-Syria border on Tuesday.   The Russian Sukhoi Su-24 warplane was shot down for violating Turkish airspace, angering Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, who compared the incident to being “stabbed in the back”. Russia also warned its citizens not to travel to Turkey, saying it was unsafe, and...

Nnamdi Kanu: British Consular Officials To Visit Detained Biafran Leader In Abuja

A Conservative minister has said that British consular officials will visit controversial Radio Biafra director Nnamdi Kanu, whose arrest in October has led to protests in London and Nigeria, after a question from the joint Nigerian-British activist's constituency MP, Harriet Harman.   James Duddridge, Minister for Africa and the Caribbean, confirmed that Kanu, who is the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (Ipob) had been visited in Nigeria by members of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office but that he did...

“Have Faith In President Buhari’s Govt”, Group Urges Igbos

The Buhari Media Support Group (BMSG), has commended Igbo leaders and Governors of the south-east states for seeking dialogue between the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and the Federal Government. This is contained in a statement jointly released in Abuja on Tuesday by Malam Mohammed Labbo and Cassidy Madueke, the Coordinator and Secretary of BMSG respectively. The statement said the option of dialogue would be explored between the Federal...

S’East Traders Disown Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu

Traders from the South-East geo-political zone have disowned the Director of Radio Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu and his cohorts in the pro-Biafran agitation.   The traders under the auspices of ‘South East Markets Amalgamated Traders Association, in a statement made available to journalists in Awka on Tuesday, said traders in the area had nothing to do with the Movement for the Actualisation of Biafra and the Indigenous People of Biafra, headed by Kanu. The IPOB is a splinter group from...

Anthony Ademiluyi: The Tragic End Of Prince Audu Abubakar

The nation was jolted on November 22nd, 2015 with the death of former two time governor of Kogi State and APC candidate for the 2015 gubernatorial elections, Prince Abubakar Audu. In a string of coincidence, that day marked the 52nd anniversary of the death of the charismatic former United States President, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. The only difference between the two deaths was that one was violent and the other was by natural causes. Three possible reasons...

Biafra: Clergy Women Caution MASSOB, IPOB

Nigerian Women in Clergy has cautioned pro-Biafran groups, Movement for the Actualization of Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB, and the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, to suspend their street protests in the interest of peace.  The clergy women under the leadership of Prophetess Nonnie Robberson had in their message to the group emphasised on the importance of dialogue against violent protest that will further lead to deaths and destruction of property in the South...

President Buhari Returns From Iran

President Mohammadu Buhari yesterday returned from his state visit to Iran where he attended the 3rd Gas Exporting Countries Forum.   The President was welcomed by the Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola, the Inspector General of Police, Mr Solomon Arase and others.

Tuface Idibia Rocks Royal Regalia Following Chieftaincy Title

2face Idibia and wife Annie after he was honoured with chieftaincy title, Tafindan Kudenda  ‘Ambassador for Peace’ by HRH Bagudu Galadima of Kudenda Kingdom at Kudenda Palace Palace,in Kaduna State.

Granddad Describes How He Drowned Grandson In Bath Tub

A man accused of murdering his own grandson today told how he drowned the youngster in a bath - but he continues to plead not guilty to murder. Stewart Greene, 65, killed Alex Robinson, nine, while his mum was out shopping for a Christmas turkey. Giving evidence in court he apologised to his daughter Joanne, ex-wife Andrea and Alex's dad John. Greene said: "I'm so sorry to Joanne and Andrea and to John Robinson. "The...

Samson Siasia Releases List Of 21 Players For Under 23 Nations Cup

Nigeria's under - 23 team coach Samson Siasia, has announced a 21-player list for the upcoming Africa U - 23 Cup of Nations to take place in Senegal. Golden Boot winner at the 2015 Fifa Under 17 World Cup, Victor Osimhen, and Liverpool loanee Taiwo Awoniyi are the big names on the list. In the Nigeria Under 23s latest friendly, they were held to a 1...

Singapore Megachurch Leader Sentenced To Jail For Pumping Church Money Into Wife’s Pop Singing Career

The co-founder of a Singapore church and five other leaders were sentenced to jail terms of up to eight years on Friday, for fraudulently diverting millions of dollars to support his wife's pop singing career. The mix of faith and fraud has fascinated tightly-regulated Singapore, where such cases are rare in an affluent city-state with little tolerance for corruption. Senior pastor Kong Hee heads City Harvest Church, one of a growing number of Singapore's megachurches preaching a "prosperity gospel" that blends...

How Ambode Saved My Life – Alfred Ilenre

…Says I Am Back on My Feet Renowned activist and Chairman of the June 12 Coalition of Democratic Formations, Mr Alfred Ilenre on Tuesday lauded the Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode for his timely intervention to save his health condition. Ilenre who was at the Bagauda Kaltho Press Centre in Alausa Secretariat, said he deemed it fit to come and pay gratitude to...

TuFace Idibia Turbaned, Given Chieftancy Title In Kaduna

"From Kaduna with Love...", African Queen crooner, Tu Face Idibia has been honoured with a chieftaincy title as an ambassador of peace in Kaduna State. He was turbaned as the "Tafidan Kudendan" of Kudendan. See pic below:

Woman Makes Bread Using Yeast From Her Vagina

Feminist blogger Zoe Stavri, who writes at Another Angry Woman, woke up on Saturday with the typical signs of a yeast infection, she wrote in a blog post. But due to her self-described "slightly perverse sense of humor," she decided to try baking bread with her yeast. So she retrieved some yeast using a dildo, combined it with flour and water, and covered it up so the yeast could do its job. She started making the...

Jay Z Introduces His Wife To Holly Holm & She Asked Her What Her Name Was

In an interview, Holm talks about her encounter with Jay-Z and Beyonce. Apparently, a courteous habit of hers kicked in and made things a little awkward between her and Beyonce: "I meet Jay-Z and he says "This is my wife," and I'm like, "Oh, hi, what's your name?" 'Cos that's what I do when I meet someone's wife. And as I'm shaking her hand, I'm thinking, "Why did I just say that?...