Africa
2:46 am
Sun February 19, 2012

'Enough Is Enough,' Say Senegalese Rappers

Originally published on Tue February 21, 2012 7:53 am

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

Riot police are firing tear gas on rock-throwing protesters who oppose President Abdoulaye Wade's bid for a third term in office. With a week to go until the presidential vote, opposition demonstrations have been banned, but crowds have taken to the streets and the atmosphere is becoming increasingly tense.

Some of the protests have been led by rap artists. They have been mobilizing the youth and putting pressure on Senegal's leader to step down.

They even have a name for their movement: Y'en a Marre. It means "We're Fed Up. Enough is Enough."

Rappers At The Front Line

"The Y'en a Marre thing, everybody was Y'en a Marre inside their chest," says Djily Baghdad, a rapper and founding member of the movement. "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."

The rappers have composed what's become an opposition anthem, a song titled "Abdoulaye Faux! Pas Force," or "Abdoulaye, don't force it, give up!"It was written by Kilifeu and Simon, two rappers that were detained by police on Thursday.

You hear their song at Y'en a Marre's outdoor gatherings, which 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.

"President Wade cannot forget that he practically swept into office on a wave of youth support — which he had enjoyed throughout his political career," Ndiaye says.

"This is a huge embarrassment for Wade. The youth has signed the divorce papers with him, that's quite clear," Ndiaye says. "But Wade is a political animal. He's managing to hide the pain this has caused him, but he's hurting."

A 'New Type Of Senegalese'

"They're forcing our hands to be violent," Baghdad 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. Wade's interior minister, Ousmane Ngom, cites security reasons for the ban on demonstrations in downtown Dakar, describing recent protests in Dakar as a crime spree by vagrants and vagabonds.

But Baghdad says rappers are just trying to wake people up and convince the Senegalese that only the people can 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 Wade withdraws his candidacy ahead of next Sunday's vote.

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Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

In Senegal, a violent standoff this morning:

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTESTERS)

MARTIN: Riot police fired teargas on rock-throwing protesters who oppose the president's bid for a third term in office. With a week to go until the presidential vote, opposition demonstrations have been banned. But crowds have taken to the streets, and the atmosphere has become increasingly tense. Some of the protests have been led by Senegalese rap artists. Earlier this week, they mobilized young people, putting pressure on Senegal's leader to step down.

NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton has that story.

(SOUNDBITE OF AN EXPLOSION AND SIRENS)

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: The police have started throwing grenades. The riot police here at Independence Square where the opposition march was meant to be take place. Everybody scattered.

(SOUNDBITE OF AN EXPLOSION AND LOUDSPEAKER WARNING)

QUIST-ARCTON: Dakar remains jittery, with the youth and the riot police locked in running streets battles, 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 and the crackdown, and for overstaying his welcome as president of Senegal.

DJILY BAGHDAD: The Y'en A Marre thing, everybody was Y'en A Marre in their chest. Everybody had that Y'en A Marre feeling. Everybody was fed up. So, as rap artists, we used to write songs to protest about how people are crying - things are going from bad to worse. The song "Abdoulaye, Faut Pas Forcer," like "Abdoulaye, Do Not Force It." Mr. President, we swear that we're not going to let you force a third mandate.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ABDOULAYE FAUT PAS FORCER")

QUIST-ARCTON: The rappers have composed what's become an opposition anthem. You hear the song at Y'en A Marre's outdoor gatherings that attracts 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.

BABACAR JUSTIN NDIAYE: (Foreign language spoken)

QUIST-ARCTON: 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.

BAGHDAD: And now they're forcing our hand to be violent. As you see, all throughout Dakar, people are protesting - burning tires on the streets, throwing rocks, blocking roads and stuff. So, that's the situation of chaos Abdoulaye Wade wants Senegal to be. He is forcing us to be violent.

(SOUNDBITE OF EXPLOSIONS)

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

OUSMANE NGOM: (Foreign language spoken)

QUIST-ARCTON: The minister cites security reasons for the ban. He has described some 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.

BAGHDAD: We have this slogan called NTS, New Type of Senegalese, Nouveau Type de Senegalais. That's what Y'en a Marre is trying to build. But do it in the most peaceful way. Enough is enough, he has to go.

QUIST-ARCTON: 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.

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR News, Dakar. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.