Sunday, March 20, 2011

SENEGAL UNITED BY ANGER

Anti-government demonstrators in Dakar, Senegal (pix Xfinity News)
Momodou Ba, Asse Sylla and thousands of others met at Dakar’s Independence Square where they have gathered for one of the biggest anti-government protests in Senegal on Saturday March 19, 2011.
Holding placards with messages like ‘Enough is enough: Senegalese are fed up with lies’. Ba and Sylla stand shoulder-to-shoulder among the crowd. It is the first time they have ever met but it doesn’t take long before they become true friends. The two men are united by one thing: unemployment.
26-year-old Ba has graduated from college in 2007. His initial plan was to find a job, save some money and start his own business.

He has been searching for a job for more than three years now. Ba fills his days hanging out in front of electronic stores in Dakar asking tips from foreigners, showing them directions to places they already know in order to earn some money. He earns a maximum of 10 dollars every week.
“I wake up every morning and head to the electronic stores because that is my job. I had so much ambition but because I don’t have a father, an uncle or a cousin who is a top government official, it’s impossible for me to get a job.”

Job applications without feedback
Between late 2007 and 2010, Ba sent out at least 200 CV’s and application letters to employers, but he received no feedback from any of them. He blames the government for his ill-luck.
“In this country, the government and the population are like two separate countries. Government officials live in luxury while the masses suffer. They don’t create any job for us and as a result the lives of most of the youth are being wasted. My friends always try to give me hope but I don’t have any hope anumore. My life will never be any better under this government”, Ba says in tears.


Betrayed by government officials
Ba’s friend, Sylla, was one of President Abdoulaye Wade’s youth campaigners in the suburbs of Dakar during the election in 2000 which brought him to power. He spoke a few times at Wade’s political rallies and he had hoped that he would be guaranteed of a job once his candidate won the election.
But in 2005, Sylla left the ruling party for the former Socialist Party. “During the 2000 campaign, I had access to Wade and most of the officials of his campaign team. They needed the votes of the youth and they turned to me for mobilisation. They promised me jobs would be created and the youths would be better off.”

Used and dumped

But after Wade won the presidency, Sylla’s access to him was stopped. The president’s officials stopped taking his calls and never gave him a job. “I feel betrayed”, he says. “And most of my colleagues who campaigned for him feel the same. We were used and dumped."
Sylla, Ba and thousands of other Senegalese in the major towns and cities across the country took to the streets to call for the president’s resignation.
On Independence Square, approximately eight hundred meters away from the presidential palace, Sidy Lamine Niasse, a prominent Islamic Religious leader, mobilised at least five thousand people to express their ‘disgust and anger’ to the president and his regime.
Forced to listen
They sing and chant songs such as ‘Wade is dead and he needs to be buried.’ The protesters vow to stay on the street until the president steps down. They are fed up with the frequent power cuts, lack of employment, high cost of living and bad economical situation in their country.
Despite heavy security presence, Ba is confident that for once, President Wade will be forced to listen to the population who put him in power.
“For 11 years, he disconnected himself from us. But with this protests, with the determination and anger in the faces of the demonstrators, I think the president will now understand that he is the most unpopular man in this country.’
The government initially unauthorised all protests, but backtracked less than 24 hours before the event. Source – The Voice

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