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Communication-Based Revolution Mobilizes Senegalese Youth

  • Nick Loomis

Senegal's president is facing the most serious political unrest of his career just months before seeking re-election to a third term. Aligned against him is a group of young Senegalese musicians and journalists called "Y'en A Marre" or "We've Had Enough".

Keur Gui de Kaolack is one of Senegal’s most popular hip-hop groups. So when band members joined a protest movement against the political establishment, rapper Omar Toure says young fans followed.

"Hip-hop is a tremendous power in Senegal. Young people can identify with it. Young Africans are conscious," he said.

The opposition group Y’en A Marre organized a rally in June that forced the ruling party to give up on plans to change the constitution, to make it easier for President Abdoulaye Wade to win re-election in February.

With violence outside the National Assembly, lawmakers backed away from proposals to establish a vice presidency and to reduce the percentage of votes needed to be elected president. Y'en A Marre's Fadel Barro says the group prefers peaceful change.

"That is not Y’en A Marrist. Y’en A Marre does not agree with that, even if we respect the liberty and the choice of the people to express their frustrations. We think that we’ll make our revolution on February 26, 2012, when millions of young Senegalese will go out, vote and change things. That will be the real revolution," he said.

Y’en A Marre is encouraging more young people to register to vote through a door-to-door community outreach program, that is building on popular discontent over the president's decision to seek a third term.

Much of President Wade's political power comes from Islamic leaders known as Marabouts, who have long helped to keep the peace in Senegal.

Marabout Serigne Fallou Diagne says the Y'en A Marre youth movement is turning Senegalese politics upside down.

"Marabouts are respected and heard. They are inseparable from political action. To go against the Marabouts is to undo Senegalese society. But the sentiments have changed. Now, there is Y’en A Marre and the actions of young people and they are finished with Wade."

As the nation waits for Senegal's constitutional council to determine the legitimacy of President Wade's candidacy, Y’en A Marre continues to engage the public through media and music, a powerful combination that Fadel Barro says the president should not underestimate.

"If Abdoulaye Wade persists, he will find Y’en A Marre on his path," he said.

Barro says Senegalese authorities are trying to demonize the group by claiming that political opponents are arming demonstrators. But he says the group's non-violent approach is what appeals most to a new generation of voters, who want to see change through the ballot box.

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