In this article, journalist Assanatou Baldé, director of the AP21 newspaper, gives an uncompromising assessment of the policies of the Senegalese head of state, Macky Sall, and takes stock of the recent chaos in this West African country, after which Senegalese youth set the record straight.
The activist Guy Marius Sagna, coordinator of the movement Frapp/France dégage and several other people arrested in connection with the Sonko affair were released on Wednesday, 25 March. In addition to that of the opponent Ousmane Sonko, the protesters also demanded their release. It must be said that the young people who rose up were right about the policy of the head of state towards his opponents.
« This is a new era for Senegal. Together we will get to work, » Macky Sall had announced in his first speech following his victory in the presidential election on 25 March 2012. Nine years later, it is disillusionment, while the people had carried their hopes in him … Not only has there been no new era, but the country has even regressed on several levels.
Ousmane Sonko, the opposition politician who has been questioned too much!
Never have democratic gains been so violated as under the regime of Macky Sall, where all serious opponents are abused: On 3 March 2012, Karim Wade, son of former president Abdoulaye Wade, was arrested and then imprisoned for illicit enrichment. On 3 March 2017, it was the turn of the mayor of Dakar, Khalifa Sall, suspected of financial misappropriation, to go to prison, and four years later, on 3 March 2021, the leader of Pastef, Ousmane Sonko, suffered the same fate. He was arrested for « disturbing the peace » as he went before the judge after being accused of rape by an employee of a massage parlour. This was clearly one arrest too many that the youth could not swallow, leading to a popular uprising throughout the country.
Beyond the Sonko affair, it is above all a rejection of the current policy that the young people expressed. Faced with permanent injustice, the deterioration of their living conditions and mass unemployment, of which they are the main victims. In Senegal, households can no longer make ends meet. Health care is unaffordable. Schools have collapsed. Infrastructure, apart from that used by foreign investors, is in tatters. Certainly, Senegal’s showcase is beautiful from abroad. With the discovery of oil deposits, the country has never been in such a good financial position. Especially since oil is a guarantee that allows the state to contract colossal loans, which are supposed to be injected into Macky Sall’s Emerging Senegal Plan, which he claims is the solution to develop Senegal. Money is flowing into the country but the people are hungry. Eating three meals a day is no longer possible for the vast majority of people. Many families have to make do with one meal a day. « While the President is getting fatter, Senegal is getting thinner », some Internet users ironically denounce the handful of people around the government who live in opulence and line their pockets with public funds while the vast majority languish in misery.
Even « the sea has been sold
Some people even wonder whether Macky Sall is governing for Senegal or for the foreign investors who are finally winning the day in the country’s political arena, each putting forward their best card to make more profit. It is no coincidence that French retailers have been particularly targeted during the uprising of the youth, who know they will never benefit from the huge profits made by Auchan, Total or Orange.
Ahead of its leaders, the youth has restored the balance
But can we blame foreign investors, whose main objective is to make a profit, for holding on to Senegal like the apple of their eye? The question is why African leaders like Macky Sall are incapable of defending the interests of their country and their people, rather than thinking only of keeping themselves in power by any means necessary, even if it means selling it to foreign interests. In Senegal, even « the sea has been sold » to the point that fishermen have no more fish to catch. A situation that forces them to fish in Mauritanian waters, where on arrival they are killed in the strictest anonymity. The youngest among them prefer to leave the country by boarding pirogues to reach the European coast! No less than 480 migrants, mainly fishermen, drowned in the space of a few days last October.
Although the Sonko affair triggered the popular uprising that attracted the world’s attention, as Senegal is seen as a stable island where peace reigns, it goes far beyond the person of the leader of Pastef. What pushed the young people to demonstrate their anger was above all the accumulated frustration of the population, worn down by their daily lives and the reign of injustice in the face of a government that does not even have the courage to organise local elections, which are constantly being postponed and are still awaited.
From now on, a new era embodied by the youth, who demand a different way of doing politics, is on the march and nobody will be able to stop it. By revolting against a power that suffocates them, they have restored the balance to save their future.