Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Youssou N'Dour's New Gig: Politics

Youssou N'Dour, the singer who is renowned in world music circles and beloved in his native Senegal announced over the weekend that he was tossing his hat into the political ring.  I will free myself of all artistic commitments from 2 January next year to enter the political arena,” N'Dour told a cheering crowd, according to The Guardian, adding in language similar to former US presidential candidate John Edwards in 2004 that there were now “two Senegals”, one for the haves and one for the have-nots.  “My concern is the Senegal of the have-nots,” N'Dour said in a message broadcast on a Senegalese television station he owns.  What wasn't clear from his announcement was whether N'Dour planned to lend his voice and image to a populist political movement, or if he planned to directly challenge sitting President Abdoulaye Wade's attempt to win a third term in office.

As we discussed here last year, this isn't the first time that N'Dour has flirted with politics.  N'Dour lent his support to a political platform pushing for reform in Senegal last year.  Ironically, N'Dour and Wade were once quite close, but things changed in 2006 when Wade pushed N'Dour to prevent a newspaper he owned from printing negative stories about the president's son.  N'Dour replied that he believed in journalistic freedom and that newspapers should be free to print stories without government interference.  The relationship between the two men quickly deteriorated.

The Guardian notes that unlike many of their West African neighbors, Senegal has a history of stable governments and democratic elections, though Wade is accused of undermining that trend in recent years by claiming a constitutional amendment barring the president from serving more than two terms in office didn't apply to him because it was introduced during his second term.  Other Senegalese are unhappy at the state of the country's economy and that President Wade has spent tend of millions of dollars on projects like “African Renaissance”, a massive statue on a hillside above the capital, Dakar, designed and built, strangely enough, by the North Koreans.  Wade also ordered a rural electrification program that was intended to boost the national economy, but the state electric monopoly, Senelec, has been unable to meet the demand; blackouts have become so common in Senegal that Senelec has acquired the unfortunate nickname of “Darkness, Inc.”
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