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“Shocked” and “groggy”: Senegalese artists express their disbelief after the postponement of the presidential election

“Shocked,” “groggy,” and in disbelief.

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“Shocked” and “groggy”: Senegalese artists express their disbelief after the postponement of the presidential election

“Shocked,” “groggy,” and in disbelief. Renowned Senegalese artists expressed their dismay on Tuesday after the unprecedented decision to postpone the presidential election scheduled for February 25, saying they were “very worried” for Senegalese democracy. “Senegal did not deserve this,” exclaims Didier Awadi, pioneer of Senegalese rap, contacted by telephone in Dakar by AFP. The 54-year-old musician, founder of the group Positive Black Soul (PBS), says he is “shocked, disappointed, outraged, groggy” by the thunderclap of the postponement of the presidential election, which caused one of the most serious crises institutions of the country.

“No one understood the explanations and arguments of Macky Sall”, the Senegalese president, repeats the musician. “I was one of the first to applaud him when he gave up his third mandate” last July, recalls the musician, often presented as one of the major figures of French-speaking African rap. “But this looks like a maneuver to stay in power.”

Like all Senegalese, Didier Awadi, a pan-Africanist, committed against injustice, corruption or the economic crises which undermine African societies, was until now very proud of the democratic exception of his country, despite recurring tensions. “We were waiting for explanations in Parliament, and what do we see? Gendarmes in the hemicycle, it’s scandalous!” protests Awadi.

The Senegalese Assembly adopted Monday evening, in an electric atmosphere, the bill postponing the presidential election until December 15, 2024, after opposition deputies who obstructed the vote were evacuated manu militari.

Also “Shocked”, Ndongo D, one of the two members of the rap group Daara J, does not lose his temper. “Senegal was a democratic exception, the debate was confiscated from us, we are trampling on the Constitution,” he protests by telephone from Dakar. “There is a lack of respect for the word given. It’s like we’re being stabbed, I don’t even have the words, it hurts so much,” he continues.

His group, Daara J, has a committed history, with titles like It makes you crazy which castigates power and money, in 2020, and Ndongo D. is not afraid to express himself. But, he notes, many artists remain silent. “The government has gagged hip-hop culture with subsidies and many are politically correct, there are not many people who take a stand anymore,” he believes.

Not to mention the fear, he adds, stressing that rappers and supporters of Pastef, the dissolved anti-system party, are in prison. Like Nitdoff, rapper and activist incarcerated several times since January 2023 for spreading false news and threatening to kill.

But tensions began well before, Senegal having been plagued since 2021 by various episodes of riots, looting and demonstrations, caused by the standoff between opponent Ousmane Sonko and the government. They caused the deaths of dozens of people and led to hundreds of arrests. “I no longer have confidence in the institutions of Senegal, I am very worried,” says Ndongo J, who nevertheless believes that the Senegalese people “will be able to cope and will not give up.”

Youssou N'Dour, the famous musician who was minister-advisor to President Macky Sall for 10 years, before leaving the ruling coalition last September, posted his disapproval on Monday on X (formerly Twitter). “Unequivocally, I do not agree with the postponement of the presidential election”, “the situation in the country worries me”, he wrote.

As for photographer Mabeye Deme, he is worried about “Senegalese youth, without any real prospect of a future, the first losers of this political crisis for which we see no end.” “The democratic project is never acquired. In Senegal, it has been wavering for several months and now threatens to fall,” he said in a statement to AFP.

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