Africa, Media, Politics

Senegal’s revolutionary rappers

By Mandy De Waal 8 August 2011

“Enough is enough” say a pair of Senegalese rappers who has teamed up with a journalist to create a massive youth movement to oust President Abdoulaye Wade. The trio has mobilised Senegal’s youth with a powerful yet peaceful war cry that tells the young citizens that their vote is the most effective weapon for democratic transformation. By MANDY DE WAAL.

“I don’t even feel Senegalese anymore. The lusty regime wasted all our money, it’s killing me. Who can help me to migrate?”

These are the angry words of Senegalese rappers Omar Toure and Mbessane Seck who, fed up with the corruption and intransigence of  85-year-old Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, decided to start a youth movement for change. Wade has been in office for two terms and his critics say that he is abusing the constitution by trying to run for office again in 2012.

The BBC tells the story of how the two rappers were enduring one of Senegal’s frequent power outages when they came together with a journalist friend called Fadel Barro, penned the song and spawned a movement for change.

Watch Omar Toure and Mbessane Seck singing Coup 2 Gueule on Youtube:

The trio was talking politics when it created “Y’en a Marre” which means “Enough is Enough” of “Fed Up”. The movement, aimed at blocking Wade’s bid for a third term, was formed in mid-January. The killer idea behind the crusade was getting support from Senegal’s youth by mobilising those 18 and older to use their votes for change.

The group showed its force in June this year when it rallied the nation to protest against a parliamentary bill that would have enabled Wade to win a third office. Y’en a Marre (Fed Up) mobilised a massive door-to-door campaign to engage youth in the democratic process. Following this, June witnessed a full day of riots which resulted in the defeat of Wade’s bill to change the voting process in Senegal’s constitution.

Ironically Wade came into power in 2000 on the back of a campaign that promised change. In 2001 he oversaw the creation of a new constitution which saw the trimming of presidential terms. This effectively meant that when Wade’s first term of office ended in 2007, he’d only be eligible for another five years as president before stepping down.

Despite his promises to bring positive change, detractors have accused Wade of corruption, nepotism and the mismanagement of government funds. More recently the Senegalese leader installed his son to head up several ministries, and it is feared that if Wade’s meddling with the constitution is successful, his son could become the country’s vice president.

The rapping founders of Y’en a Marre (Fed Up) want to block another Wade presidency, but are also fed up with escalating food prices, the ongoing power outages in the country and wide-scale unemployment. Research shows that the unemployment rate in Senegal is at some 50% and that the youth are strongly affected.

Listen to Omar Toure speaking on Al Jazeera:

Despite its challenges Senegal has been a relatively peaceful and stable democracy, and the founders of Y’en a Marre (Fed Up)  say they don’t want to launch a full-scale revolution. “The first thing we did was to explain that we don’t want what happened in Egypt or Tunisia to happen here,” one of the group’s founding members told BBC. “We don’t want people immolating themselves, and we don’t want young people going into the street to burn things down. We tell them it’s not the government that would suffer by doing this, but us, the citizens. People need to fight at the ballot box.”

Late in July the regime hit back and arrested Toure, also known by his rapper name Thiat rally

Populaire, a French language Senegalese newspaper reported that Toure slammed Wade during a protest organised by his movement on 23 July. “An old man can still be useful to a country when he is striving for the right path. But an old man of 90 years who goes back on his word — or who lies — should not stay in a country,” Toure is reported to have said. The president’s age is officially claimed to be 85, but popular belief is that Wade is much older than his stated age.

Local human rights movements said no reasons were given for Toure’s arrest, and the rapper-cum-revolutionary wasn’t given access to legal representation. Members of Y’en a Marre thronged the streets of Dakar and massed outside the central court house of Senegal’s capital to petition for their leader’s release.

The revolutionary rapper was released the next day and back on the streets with his rallying war cry which goes: “The alarm bell rings… My voting card is my weapon… It will be the solution to my suffering.” DM

Read more:

  • Senegal police free anti-Wade rapper Toure aka Thia at the BBC;
  • Leader of Senegal’s ‘Fed Up’ movement held by police in The Washington Post;
  • Protesters Urge President to Step Down in Senegal in The New York Times;
  • Rival Rallies in Senegal Over President’s Right to Run Again on Voice of America;

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