Monday, October 17, 2011

Senegalese Rappers Hope for Peaceful “African Spring”

In Senegal, political rap group Keur Gui is raising the pressure against the President Abdoulaye Wade, who they say has to go. Their rallying cry: Y’en a Marre, Enough is Enough. Their method is a massive campaign to register young voters and foment a peaceful revolution to end the 11-year rule of Wade and transition to true democracy. Rapper Omar Toure, who goes by the stage name Thiat, along with fellow MCs Fou Malade and Kilifeu and reporter Fadel Barro started the movement in January after political frustrations had reached a boiling point, as Wade is up too run for a third term.

Their complaints include unemployment, the high cost of food and gas, recurrent power outages, corruption and Wade’s decadent misuse of government funds, such as the new $27 million African Renaissance Statue, which does little to help the poor. The president is accused of focusing only on the capital of Dakar, and ignoring the whole country’s needs. Their song “Coup 2 Guelle” shows the rappers angrily calling out the inequality in their daily lives. “They’re building tunnels/while poverty is looking at us/Life became too expensive/ while we drown in misery.”

In an interview with Al-Jazeera, Toure said he thinks this movement could be similar to the Arab Spring, and hopefully will speak to marginalized people everywhere. The movement, however, has also made clear their approach of non-violent disobedience and use of the established electoral process.

“The first thing we did was to explain that we don’t want what happened in Egypt or Tunisia to happen here,” said a founding member “we don’t want people immolating themselves, and we don’t want young people going into the street to burn things down. People need to fight at the ballot box.” "They are popular because they talk to the people directly," says Senegalese sociologist Djiby Diakhate.

Six months after its inception, the youth movement already began to make waves as it organized successfully against Wade’s attempt to change the constitution making it easier for him to be re-elected. After massive riots in Dakar, he withdrew the bill. But not before Thiat was arrested at a rally after publicly insulting the president. Y’en a Marre rallied to the courthouse where Thiat was held, leading to his release the next day.

Wade, 85, says he still plans to run in February, but he may be facing his strongest opposition yet due to the large number of youth now motivated by these musicians’ words.

-Will Yates
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