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

End of Boko Haram in sight, Buhari assures international community

President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday in Dakar, Senegal, assured the international community that the end of Boko Haram terrorists was in sight. The President gave the assurance at the meeting of a panel of heads of states at the 3rd Dakar International Forum on Peace and Security in Africa. In a statement issued by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, on Tuesday in Abuja, the President also assured the international community that the security situation in Nigeria had...

FLASH: FG sends bill seeking establishment of special anti-corruption courts to NASS

The Federal Government have sent to the National Assembly, a bill seeking the establishment of a special anti-corruption court to try serious crimes, including corruption cases.   The Special Crimes Bill 2016 was drafted by the Prof. Itse Sagay-led Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption.   The proposed court will exclusively handle corruption cases and other cases including narcotic, human trafficking, kidnapping, cybercrime, money laundering and other related offences.   Details of this bill and more will be passed on as it unfolds...

Super Falcons’ defender undergoes surgery.

Super Falcons defender, Onome Ebi, has undergone a successful surgery on her broken arm suffered during the just concluded Africa Women’s Cup of Nations in Cameroon.   The surgery was conducted on Tuesday at the National Hospital in Abuja.   Ebi, who is one of the veterans in the Super Falcons team that won a record eight African title last weekend, gave glory to God for the successful operation carried out on her.

Lawyers disagree with Kaduna govt. labelling Shiite IMN “insurgent group”

Nigerian lawyers have expressed divergent views on the legality of the action by the Kaduna State government designating the Shiite group, IMN, an “insurgent group.” While one of the lawyers who spoke in interviews with PREMIUM TIMES said the declaration was constitutional, others said it was not. The Kaduna State government in a White Paper released on Monday said “for all intent and purpose, the IMN is an insurgent group and ought to be treated as such.” The government also vowed to...

After UN report, 12 Osun communities renounce female circumcision

Efforts at eradicating the female genital mutilation, FGM, in Osun received a boost on Tuesday as 12 communities across four local governments declared their intentions to completely stop the practice. The declaration was made at the Female Mutilation Abandonment Declaration Ceremony organised by the Shericare Foundation, SCARF, an initiative of the wife of the governor, Sherifat Aregbesola. The communities that declared against FMG include Eko Ende, Eko Ajala, Iba, Asa, Iwo Oke, Ajagunlase, Alapata, Owode, Araromi in Ifelodun, Olaoluwa, Ede North and Orolu...

FUNERALS: Throwing a Lavish Party for the Dead, By Okey Ndibe

Regardless of the festering economic crisis in the country, regardless of the hordes of unemployed youngsters in the country, regardless of the thinning hope and burgeoning despair in the land—some people have figured that the most sensible thing to do is stage contests for the most gaudy, expensive and spectacular funeral. I have said this before: one of the hardest tasks is to predict how Nigerians would react in any given situation. We are a perplexing bunch, able to defy...

Husband chops off his own penis after his wife wouldn’t have sex with him.

A sexually frustrated husband, who claims his wife had not slept with him in a decade, has taken matters into his own hands in a bizarre manner. Ghasi Ram, 37, from India, cut off his own penis after losing his cool. He had come home drunk and started pestering his wife Manjhri Devi, 34, for sex.

There Are No Indigenes In Kaduna- El Rufai

The Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai has retweeted a tweet that quoted him as saying Kaduna state does not have indigenes. The post which was made by Bello El-Rufai which he attributed to the Governor reads: "We have no indigenes or settlers in Kaduna. Anyone that adds to our development is a citizen.  "Indigenes" don't like it." Credit: dailytrust

FG Secures EU’s Commitment on Rebuilding of North East, Niger Delta

The European Union (EU) on Monday pledged its support for the ongoing efforts of the Federal Government to rebuild some parts of the North East and Niger Delta regions by earmarking 20 million Euros for the reconstruction of markets and warehouses in Borno and Delta States. The EU Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Michael Arrion, who gave the pledge during a visit to the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun in her office, said the funds would...

Two Arraigned Over False Information To Police

Two accused persons, Patrick  Onomhante -54, and Dickson Ugoche – 52, have been arraigned before a Lagos State Magistrate Court sitting in Ikeja for allegedly giving false information to the police. They appeared before  Magistrate B. O.Osunsanmi  on a three-count charge of  conspiracy, false accusation,  false statement to a public officer and given false information to the police . The accused were docked for allegedly making false accusation against, Paul Njoku, who was charged with...

Senate Grills NCC, Telecom Operator Over Data Price Hike

The Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) Tuesday said that it intervened with an interim price floor for data services to avert a looming price war in the telecommunications sector. The explanation of the NCC is coming even as the Minister of Communications, Mr. Adebayo Shittu, asked Nigerians to face reality. The regulatory commission said that it feared that the price war could eventually lead to a monopoly in the telecom industry that would force small operators...

Aisha Buhari, Magu To Kick-off Women Against Corruption Campaign

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, will tomorrow,  flag off the Nigerian Women Against Corruption, WAC, project, at the International Conference Center, Abuja with the aim of engaging women across the country in a nationwide sustainable fight against corruption. According to the acting chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, the epoch-making event, which is in collaboration with the office of the wife of the President would be flagged...

Mugabe Appeals For Calm Amid Economic Crisis

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe has appealed for calm as his government battles to contain a debilitating economic crisis. The 92-year-old president appeared frail but jovial, struggling with his lines a bit as he delivered a 30-minute State of the Nation address on Tuesday. He praised the country's security forces for maintaining order, although critics accuse them of using violence to stifle dissent. This once prosperous but now economically struggling southern...

Police Arrest Man Who Supplies Herdsmen Arms

The police in Enugu have arrested a man who allegedly supplies AK-47 rifle to herdsmen. The suspect, one Alhaji Samaila Garuba, alias Bakassi, who is from Shagari village in Sokoto State, was arrested in the 9th Mile area of Enugu on Tuesday morning. Spokesman for the Enugu State Police Command, Mr. Ebere Amaraizu, who disclosed this, said a herdsman, Ibrahim Adamu, who was arrested with an AK-47 in the Udi area of Enugu on August...

15 Year Old Charged with Beheading His Classmate in Gruesome Murder

A 15-year-old in Lawrence, Massachusetts has been arrested and charged for the murder of his high school classmate, whose decapitated body was found by the Merrimack River north of Boston last week. On Saturday, Mathew Borges was charged with murdering and decapitating 16-year-old Lee Manuel Viloria-Paulino, who first went missing on Nov. 18 after he left his grandmother's house but never returned home. "It's shocking, it's heartbreaking," Lawrence Police Chief James Fitzpatrick...

KKK Holds Parade To Celebrate Trump’s Win

The Ku Klux Klan held a pathetic parade to celebrate the election of Donald Trump in North Carolina on Saturday. The hate group's "parade" was originally to be held in Pelham but was moved one county over to Roxboro because of protestors. The Burlington Times-News reports that the KKK rally had a full police escort. State troopers blocked intersections while 30 vehicles drove around the town. The...

Dangote Sacks 109 Workers

The Dangote Group has dismissed 109 workers at Obajana Cement Company in Kogi State, after being found guilty of various offences, Abdulahi Magaji has said. Mr. Magaji, the coordinator of the company’s Patrol Team, announced this to journalists on Tuesday at the Obajana premises of the company. He said that the dismissed workers were among the 244 suspects arrested between May and November. According to him, they include erring drivers, owners of illegal haulage,...

Stop Making Expensive Demands from me, Buhari tells Nigerians

President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday asked Nigerian elite to stop making what he called expensive demands from his administration because things would no longer be done in the old way. He warned them to stop insisting that things should be done the old way which impoverished the nation. The President spoke during a meeting he had with a group of Nigerians in the Diaspora, on the margins of the 3rd Dakar International Forum on Peace and Security in...

Moremi Ojudu, Hope Betrayed And The Fury Of History By Rotimi Opeyeoluwa

The Holy Book claims that it is a dangerous thing for a human conscience to become seared. In such an occurrence, the conscience which is supposed to be an inbuilt moral-compass to help navigate between good and evil is compromised. When the human conscience is seared then all evil is tolerable and good is assaulted by unreasoning and that is what is currently playing out in Nigeria of today. During the last circle of electioneering in Nigeria and within...

2019: God Will Give PDP 2nd Chance- Bode George

Former deputy national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olabode George has expressed hope that God and Nigerians will give the erstwhile ruling party another opportunity to rule the country, again, in 2019. George said this, yesterday, at his Ikoyi, Lagos office, when he hosted the South-West zonal executive of the party, led by Eddy Olafeso, which paid him a working visit. George premised his declaration on what he called the poor performance of the All Progressives...

Allegations Of Corruption In The Justice Delivery Sector: Implications For Rule Of Law & Democracy By Femi Falana

Introduction  For the past three decades, I have been involved in the struggle against human rights violations, corrupt practices and abuse of powers by certain principalities in Enugu State. In the 1980s I was here to defend the late Chima Ubani and other leaders of the student union of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka when they were expelled on grounds of political extremism. I also defended them when they were later charged before a Special Military Tribunal which sat at Enugu. In the 1990s I was equally here to launch...