, DAKAR, Jan 11 – Presidential candidate and world famous Senegalese musician Youssou N’Dour demands a clear message from the world. And that includes the Netherlands.
On January 2nd, in a broadcast on his own television station TFM, Youssou N’Dour declared he was going to run for president in his own Senegal. One week later, the man himself talked to me (Bram Posthumus) in the garden of his Dakar house.
The atmosphere is relaxed, but the slogan ‘Fekké ma ci boolé’ on his bright white tracksuit makes sure we all remember why we are here. It’s the name of his citizen’s movement. The slogan can be interpreted in several ways, but there are two recurrent elements: bearing witness and taking part. And this is what Youssou N’Dour is all about.
When did you decide to be a candidate?
“I have been talking with those who govern us through my music and my words for 30 years now. They never listened. I am also a keen observer of the political scene in Senegal, because I live here. What I see is a democracy under threat and a people that is losing hope. I have come in to give them back their hopes. I think we can move towards a Senegal that actually takes into account the realities and the needs of its people.”
Reactions have been mixed. There are people who ask: does Youssou N’Dour realise what kind of game he has decided to step into?
“There is a rapper here by the name of Duggy Tee. And he has said of me: ‘He’s got the right, he is competent, but he must convince.’ So that is what I do: debate and convince. Now, to say that politics is only for a certain kind of people with a certain style… no. That’s something of the past.”
What can the Senegalese expect from President N’Dour?
“I present myself as the alternative. I will not be the kind of president who wakes up in the morning and says: ‘Right. It’s time we built a statue* that will cost 22 million euros’ – without taking into account that the people want drinking water. I want to govern on the basis of the needs and the priorities of the people.”
How do you feel about Abdoulaye Wade running for president for the third time?
“We do not have a president here. We have a king. And that needs to stop. But what worries me even more is the behaviour of the international community. I am looking for a clear message and I call on the Dutch government to put pressure on Wade not to run.
Internationally it will be said: ‘It’s an internal Senegalese affair.’ But goodness me, every single country in the world has a constitution. Countries have the right and the duty to address leaders who make a mockery out of their constitution. Perhaps we do not have oil or diamonds and maybe this is why countries like the Netherlands don’t say anything. But Senegal was a shining example of democracy. And from a geographical perspective, we remain the gateway to Africa.”
So you are not afraid of the inevitable confrontation?
“Look, it is not a confrontation. This is someone who wants to get hold of the rights of the people and run with them. We live in a civilised world. And he stands in front of a massive majority of 12 million Senegalese and wants to turn the tide in his favour.”
In other words: victory in the first round of February 26?
“Yes. People want change, even the traditional political parties want change. You must understand that opinion polls have always been banned in Senegal. We have no way of gauging what people think. What we do know is there are many undecided voters. They are with me. So yes, we can win the first round, provided the rules of the game are respected.”
*The statue N’Dour talks about does in fact exist. It is the highly controversial Monument for the African Renaissance, dominating the skyline of parts of the capital. It was built by North Koreans and is heartily detested by those who have to look at it all the time.
Published on Radio Netherlands Worldwide (http://www.rnw.nl)