Printer-friendly versionSend by emailPDF version

There is no way President Wade can hang on to power for very long. Chances are the politicians will work out some deal.

Dear colleagues,

Yesterday, I decided to go get first-hand experience of what the incessant mass demonstrations in Dakar, Senegal, look like. So I went to town in the afternoon and stayed till about 7.30pm.

It was unbelievable. Young men, young women, old women, old men – people of all ages and genders were there. There were lots of foreign journalists too.

On one of the main roads to Place de l'Indépendance, there was a long stand-off between the demonstrators on one side and the security forces on the other. Quite an experience, full of many human stories... I went around on foot, and then ended up at Sandaga where the real action was happening. Unbelievable…

The demonstrators were quite organised and civil. One young man engaged the leader of the security forces at the stand-off toward the Place de l'Indépendance in a debate. It was in Wolof, so I didn't directly follow it, but a student standing next to me later said the young man had asked the security officer: ‘What has that thieving President Abdoulaye Wade given you to protect him?’, and the security officer said he was only doing his job as a patriot. Then the young man said: ‘If you are a patriot then you will let us go and get rid of the man who is stealing our future.’ A Chinese journalist standing next to us was very amused.

Another human story: At about 6pm, suddenly there was some commotion in the crowd, and it turned out somebody was allegedly trying to steal a cellphone. The surprising thing was that there was no mob justice meted out to the alleged thief. Some people started yelling that he was a ‘PDS-thief’ (PDS is President Wade's party). The real humane side of the story was that some Senegalese journalists got hold of the man and led him to the security forces on the other side of the stand-off to be arrested. The security forces didn't know how to respond initially (they were there on a different mission), until one of them finally took the alleged thief aside. He was let go after some conversation and he disappeared quietly...

Another unforgettable moment was when an old woman who looked like at least 80 years old said: ‘Abdoulaye Wade is much older than I am; he must go home and rest with dignity!’ Somebody else screamed: ‘Dignified Wade is a contradiction in terms!’ (It was in Wolof and my interpreter neighbour gave me what she said). The crowd went wild. And when Youssou N'Dour, Idrissa Seck, Maître El-Hadj Diouf came around, there was so much excitement.

I didn't stay long enough to see the drama fully unfold or be hurt by the ensuing violence.

My takeaway observation: There is no way President Wade can hang on to power for very long. Chances are the politicians will work out some deal. The masses are way too organised and determined against business as usual. We will see... The DECK is splintering! DECK is an acronym I recently learned, and it stands for the deck that's been stacked against citizens: Despotism, Exploitation, Corruption, & Knowledge-deficit.

The struggle for social justice is alive!

To be continued...