Africa
1:46 am
Sun February 19, 2012

'Enough Is Enough' Say Sengalese Rappers

Senegal's capital of Dakar remains jittery, with the youth and the riot police locked in running street battles.

The police are using teargas, rubber bullets and water cannon spray to chase away angry opposition demonstrators, including rappers from the Y'en a Marre movement. Their name means "We're Fed Up, Enough is Enough."

This past week, a planned overnight sleep-in protest was broken up by the security forces. Founding member and rapper, Djily Baghdad, blames Abdoulaye Wade for the ban, the crackdown and for overstaying his welcome as president of Senegal.

"The Y'en a Marre thing, everybody was Y'en a Marre inside their chest," Baghdad says. "Everybody had that Y'en a Marre feeling. Everybody was fed up. So, as rap artists, we write songs to protest about how people are crying. ... Mr. President, we swear that we are not going to let you force the third mandate."

The rappers have composed what's become an opposition anthem. You hear the song at Y'en a Marre's outdoor gatherings that attract hundreds of Senegalese youth. Independent analyst, Babacar Justin Ndiaye, says it's ironic that the young people who helped propel Wade to power in 2000 have now turned against him.

Ndiaye says Wade has squandered the goodwill of young Senegalese, whom he promised a sound education, good jobs and prospects and a stake in their country that boasted a reputation as one of West Africa's most stable and most democratic. That was 12 years ago; now they're telling 85-year-old Wade to go, says rapper Djily Baghdad.

"And now they're forcing our hands to be violent," he says. "As you see, all throughout Dakar, people are protesting — burning tires on the streets, throwing rocks [and] blocking roads and stuff. So, that's the chaos Abdoulaye Wade wants to be; he's forcing us to be violent."

The president's allies insist his third term bid, validated by Senegal's top court, does not violate the constitution and that he's staying in the presidential race. And Wade's Interior Minister, Ousmane Ngom, justifies a ban on demonstrations within the presidential mile, in downtown Dakar.

The minister cites security reasons for the ban and describes recent protests in Dakar as a crime spree by vagrants and vagabonds. But Djily Baghdad says the rappers are just trying to wake people up and convince the Senegalese that only they will bring change.

"We have this slogan called NTS: New Type of Senegalese," he says. "That's what Y'en a Marre is trying to build, but [to] do it in the most peaceful way."

The rappers, the opposition and other demonstrators vow they'll continue to protest, and make Senegal ungovernable, unless President Wade withdraws his candidacy, ahead of next Sunday's vote.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.