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Democracy in Dakar

I’m guilty of the same attention crimes I’ve accused the mainstream media of: I’ve been writing about tragedies and crises on the African continent at the expense of the good news stories. One of the stories I’ve not paid much attention to are the elections in Senegal, where incumbent President Abdoulaye Wade appears to have won re-election in the first round of elections. There’s been some minor strife around the elections – negligible in comparison to many African elections, but significant in Senegal which has a well-deserved reputation for stability and good governance.

Alice Backer has a good overview of blogger reactions to the election results on Global Voices – Senegalese bloggers overwhelmingly opposed Wade, and some speculate that his strong first-round showing must point to election rigging. Others bemoan the divisions and weakness in the opposition.

There weren’t any Senegalese bloggers (that I know about) writing prior to Wade’s election in 2000… but there were hundreds of hip hop crews, many of whom were involved in Wade’s election. Wade had served as the head of the Senegalese opposition when Abdou Diouf ruled the nation and had served time in Besançon prison for his political actions. He was a rallying figure for disillusioned youth, and much of the hip hop music produced around the time of the 2000 elections supported political change in general and Wade specifically.

(For a great overview of some of these tracks, check out African Underground Vol. 1: Hip-Hop Senegal, which includes tracks like “44“, a reference to 1944, when French soldiers shot Senegalese soldiers who demanded compensation as German prisoners of war.)

Seven years later, rappers and bloggers are both skeptical of what Wade has produced during his years in office. They’re also concerned that Wade has treated opposition leader Idrissa Seck much as he was treated, imprisoning him for seven months, perhaps to prevent him from standing in the elections. Nomadic Wax, the label that produced the African Underground collection, is now producing a documentary about the 2007 elections and the role of youth culture and hiphop called “Democracy in Dakar”. Three “episodes” from the film are available online now, and they’re amazing – reporters, activists and MCs talk and rhyme about their hopes and frustrations with Wade, poverty and politics in general. As a BBC reporter mentions in the second episode, the MCs function as “musical journalists” – clearly we need to find a way to cover hiphop as well as blogging if we’re going to be serious about covering citizen media on Global Voices.

3 thoughts on “Democracy in Dakar”

  1. Pingback: cyrusfarivar.com » Blog Archive » Democracy in Dakar: Wade re-elected

  2. “a well-deserved reputation for stability and good governance.”

    I think this is more by comparison. In that it’s more stable and less badly governed that most countries in the neighborhood.

    Abdoulaye Wade is certainly no Lansana Conté or Yaya Jammeh, but his autocratic tendencies are troublesome for Senegalese democracy. He reminds me more of Obasanjo in that he seems more interested in being a pan-African statesman that in addressing his own country’s problems.

  3. Pingback: Global Voices Online » Blog Archive » Senegal: democracy, hiphop and blogging

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