Sunday, May 30, 2010

Youssou N' Dour’s World Of Politics

Famed Senegalese recording artist Youssou N' Dour turned up in an expected place last week – on the border between Georgia and its breakaway republic Abkhazia. N’Dour didn’t just show up there on a whim of course, he appeared as part of an all-star concert meant to bring attention to the estimated 350,000 Georgian refugees from Abkhazia and Georgia’s other aspiring independent state, South Ossetia. Known officially as “internally displaced persons”, these Georgians were driven from their homes due to ethnic fighting with the Abkhaz and Ossetians, in some cases dating back to the early 90s when the two provinces first made their bids for independence from Georgia. The concert dubbed “Music Without Walls” brought together musicians from around the world in a show to promote the idea of reconciliation between the different ethnic groups – and with the blessing of Georgia’s government.

But this isn’t N’Dour’s first foray into politics. Earlier this month The Guardian reported that N’Dour had joined a political platform with some of his native Senegal’s leading opposition politicians. The move was a drastic change for N’Dour, who once had been a close ally of President Abdoulaye Wade. Their relationship soured in 2006 when a newspaper owned by N’Dour (who has invested in media projects in Senegal that include newspapers and a world-class recording studio) criticized Wade’s son for his alleged involvement in a money-laundering scheme. President Wade felt that N’Dour shouldn’t have let his newspaper print such a story; N’Dour though actually believes in journalistic ethics: “I own a media group and trust the journalists who work for it. It is not my role to control what they write.” His relationship with Wade quickly deteriorated. Like many other Senegalese, N’Dour now believes that Wade is grooming his son to succeed him – transforming Senegal from a democracy to a family-run autocracy in the process.

“I get the feeling the president hears only in mono, these days, not in stereo,” N’Dour told The Guardian. “He has removed those who told him the truth.”
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