Intervention Française au Mali: une douche froide pour les Francophobes et opposants de la FrançAfrique? France’s Just War in Mali: Food for thought for Francophobes and opponents of the françAfrique?

•January 20, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Intervention Française au Mali: une douche froide pour les Francophobes et opposants de la FrançAfrique?

France’s Just War in Mali: Food for thought for Francophobes and opponents of the françAfrique?

 

I am admittedly a Francophobe. More than 2days’ transit through Paris is the maximum I could ever stomach of the “Country of Human Rights”, just long enough to enjoy fresh croissants at Paul’s, a pint of pineapple juice at Monoprix, and on a good day, a trip down to the 1st arrondissement to eat delicious “crêpes au citron” at the foot of the Eiffel tower. But by the end of the 2nd day, I start to literally feel choked, oppressed anew by the cultural arrogance of the french you feel like claws on your throat when you buy a train ticket or just sitting at a café, the deterioration you see on their train going from the 1er arrondissement to Sarcelles or any other of their “banlieues”, true human gutters where African immigrants amass like rats, and of course, that plaque on their Arc de Triomphe “a nos morts pour la patrie”, a very moving plaque for any tourist reading this, but for me, revolutionary daughter of the 21st Africa, in between the lines all I read are the words not spoken.. “and to the millions of other drafted men from our colonies of Africa and Indochina whom we never retributed decently, even bombarded them to silence when they dared make qualms in Thiaroye!). Yes, by day 2, I am always ready to run back to the airport to catch the first plane out of the land of such non-humble people.

But today, for the first time in my life, I am rethinking my francophobia…

Last week’s push of the jihadists towards the South of Mali, wrere lies the strategic capital city of Mali, Bamako, found me in Bamako. That fateful Thursday January 10th, we really thought we were dug in. This was it, the moment we were all dreading for months, the crazed islamists, set on installing strict Sharia law across entire the muslim West Africa, too liberal and laic for their taste, were going to march towards Bamako, met by no resistance from the unorganized, leaderless and disorganized Malian army. I was packed up, purchased a one-way ticket for Dakar, and was ready to fly out on the first flight out of the city.

Then that evening the Malian president addressed a letter to the French president François Hollande pleading for international support to push back the jihadists before it was too late. The French took this plea to the UN Security council for an international seal of approval. The next day, the first French planes were flying over Bamako on their way to the North, to seize back the city of Konna, first city of the South seized by the hijadists the day before. The rest is now history…

2,000 French troops are today in Mali, in a massive French effort to push back islamist terrorists and help Mali regain its territorial integrity, an operation named “Serval”, after a small animal of the desert.

“Le Mali Un et Indivisible, au côté des français” we can read today everywhere. Mali, one and indivisible. But not with our African brothers by our side, but with France by our side.

French flags are flying all over town, proudly displayed side-by-side with the Malian flag on two-wheelers, on car windows, in front porches of homes and businesses, as the pictures below display.

Photos 1-3: French flags side by side with the Malian flag in the streets and hearts of Bamako

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Photo 4: Café worker watching France24’s news update at a café in Bamako. Bamako residents are stuck to their TV screens these days, counting on French channels France24 or RFI for updates on the progress of French and Malian troops in the war ongoing 700Km (just about 8hours) North of the capital city.

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The tri-colored Mali flag side-by-side with that of the former French colonialist… Who would have ever thought this day possible, in the 21st century? Kwame Nkrumah is probably turning in his grave.

This moment is an important one in our history. And bodes to me of where we are heading in our globalized “one village” world, where citizen alliances and national sentiments will not go towards (as assumed) more pan-Africanism, but towards where concrete fellowship and benevolent partnership will be forthcoming, be it France, China or any other nation.

Serval is the savior of the day. Not Operation Misma that has been “under discussion” for almost a year now, at the innumerable CEDEAO and AU special summits held on the Mali impending crisis. Where is Misma today? It is the typical  chronicle of a predicted catastrophe.

10 days after the assault on Konna, when we escaped extinction here in Mali, it is shocking to see that the pledged 500 Senegalese troops are still not here. Senegal is the closest neighbor to the West, in geography an history- reminding that Senegal and Mali used to be one single nation between 1960-62, and cultural kinship could not be highest anywhere on the continent as between these 2 countries, which still share the same flag (least one star) and emblem (one People-one Nation-one Faith). Nigeria, Tchad, Togo and Niger began at least have begun sending in their men, battalions of one to two hundred men at a time, slow drops of water to a parched tongue. But the truth remains that it is the French troops that are holding the front, and manning the brunt of the war effort.

In these dire times of need, when a country, making the weightiest statement a sovereign country could ever make, calls for help to regain its territorial integrity and escape from extinction, finds a helping hand not its neighboring countries, but in France, what does this say about the progress of pan-Africanism? What message does it send to young generations of Africans looking for models?

What are we doing with ourselves, most of all, fellow Africans? More than half a century after Independence, we still are not able to agree to have a regional army able to protect our common borders and fight transnational threats? We are still incapable of coming to the rescue of a fellow country that is faced with a threat that could have happened to any of us? We are all Malians today, by the sheer fact that the Jihadists, had they been allowed to reach Bamako, could have been next at the doorsteps of Senegal, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Guinea and Burkina Faso, in a heartbeat. The Malian problem is a regional problem, which should have been addressed through a regional solution and response. But the truth of the matter is: West Africa countries are not capable of bringing a regional response, not out of lack of desire to make Misma work, but out of limited means and national funds allocated to panafricanist efforts. We prefer to invest in national armies and national priorities, not understanding that our minute national armies and markets are not the “way out”. But Pan-Africanism is still not a priority. And here is the outcome…

Once again, the thunder was stolen. Once again, we Africans missed our moment of glory. And instead of entering Mali as saviors, applauded by local populations who could have seen in practice the heights we reach when united as Africans, we are diminished to pronouncing accolades for the French president (every president has made a speech thanking france, once again), even stating to be “in heaven” after France’s intervention in Mali (the very words of the head of the Africa Union, Yayi Bonni, Togolese president). What a shame…

Well I say kudos to François Hollande’s France. And shame on our African countries.

I am no less a skeptic of the French, but today one courageous act of a man, François Hollande, at the right time, saved my life and that of millions here in Mali, in the first act of a Just War I have seen in this new century. This I can attest to.

Every generation seeks models and heroes to inspire it and guide its actions, and catalyze its most productive energies. In 1968, it was the winds of independences that moved millions of university students to riot all across Europe and the world. Following our Independences, a generation of revolutionary African heroes, from Thomas Sankara (Burkina) to Patrice Lumumba (Congo), Frantz Fannon (Algeria) and later on Mandela inspired the generations of our parents to fight on, to secure substantive socio-economic rights for our antions. Their ideas are very much alive today, and held on to desperately like flames of lingering hope by today’s generation of youth, but no leader is presently on the front scene to catalyze them into action. Our leaders prefer to applaude François Hollande’s heroism, instead of being heroes themselves for all of us.

My tenacious Francophobe friends say to wait a few years to see what the REAL covert intentions of the French were in reality in engaging in this war. Qui vivra, verra. We shall see!

But what remains is that it is the French who saved the day. Not the Africans. Once again, African leaders were not able to stand as one to uphold the priorities/deliver on the needs of their people, opening the space for jihadist terrorists to have such an appeal – at least they offer concrete opportunities of power, fellowship and money-making that are appealing to the young Somalian who has no opportunities.

Will we be moving towards more sporadic terrorism and a turn towards hardliner Islamism in the region? Towards a new era of FrançAfrique relations, based on true partnership, respect and fellowship this time, doing good at long last on our Histories’ collisions, which thrust us into each other’s national destinies?

We shall see, indeed!

But for now, lots of food for thought…

Meet AfroOptimist of the Month: NEW DAWN AFRICA

•March 22, 2012 • Leave a Comment
Greetings Afro-Optimists!

NOW is the time for Africa

•March 21, 2012 • Leave a Comment

NOW is the time for Africa

NOW is the time for Africa. Not tomorrow, not in 10 years. If you don’t believe it, this picture above is a good remider. You see here ordinary Senegalese citizens, young and old, women, men and youth, lining up for hours under the scorching sun to vote Abdoulaye Wade out, along with his nepotist regime, in Diourbel, Senegal.

Look also at the sun rising on Catembe Isld, across Maputo Bay, in Mozambique, where land is still dirt cheap, on the economic road to South Africa.

Finally, look at the rich lush green valleys, rolling hills, clean blue skies and winding rivers of Uganda, a country endowed by the One above with abundant rainfall and sunshine all year long, a fiest for the eyes and truly a tropical paradise.

If you’re smart, you’ll begin to plan your return to Africa now. If you’re smart, you’ll start planning your investments in Africa now. If you’re smart, you’ll begin to see ALL of the opportunities which our beautiful continent is replete with, at every corner your eye cares to catch.

NOW is the for Africa friends. World, get ready, here comes 21st century Africa!

Be blessed all Afro-optimists.
– afrooptimist

Today is a good day to be in Africa

•October 23, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Today is a good day to be in Africa
October 22, 2011

Today is a good day to be in Africa. Sitting in a bus leaving Mbale district on my way to the small rural community of Bulambuli, in north eastern Uganda, it strikes me how really true it is that “Africa is richest continent in the world”.

Sun ripened banana trees in this God-endowed rain-abundant country of golden (cheap!) fruits and tall sunflowers greet me as the bus speeds by. Rolling hills, deep ripe river-studded valleys and green expanses as far as the eye can see meet my gaze wherever I turn. The surrounding Elgon Mountain range, circling the entire Mbale region, offers the perfect backdrop to this idyllic scene. Men coming out of round-shaped mud huts, women bent cultivating between cotton rows and youth cycling away go by as if this was the most natural scene in the world. The beauty of the green-tree lined imposing mountains, the green healthy fields, the green insides of happily fed goats and cows lazily chewing on greens pastures… the beauty of the green everywhere against the radiant clear blue of the sky is indescribable. A feast for the eyes.

A wide smile spreads over my face at seeing a child, half naked trotting on his two tiny feet to chase a duck at the daily market, under the watchful eyes of his mother.

Not long after, another heart-warming scene, a man meticulously pounding on a pile of rocks breaking one rock at a time into small pieces, sweat beginning to soak his brow. He sits beneath a sheet of cloth suspended using 4 long sticks pinned to the ground, but it hardly helps. There are about five more stone piles behind him. You can just tell he plans to be there until lunch, when his wife calls him in perhaps.

I close my eyes and can almost see the other invisible villages, off the road, nested at the foot of the beautiful mountains, their residents also carrying on with their daily lot, their children playing in the rich red sand, old men sitting under the large tree drinking tea, bearing any hardship faced in their stride.

News of Colonel Moamar Ghadaffi’s death just came in. On the local paper this morning, we saw pictures of the boy who shot the president for life or so he thought Ghaddafi. Pictures of his blood-soaked corpse are shocking, but that is the fate of men who thought themselves eternal. I hope his friend Museveni here, along with all the other tenacious dinosaur presidents across Africa (Wade, Biya, Mugabe and the Bongos), see the writing on the wall. And leave while the restlessness from within and impatience for change is still containable. The Arab spring is at Every African country’s door.

Right next to me on the bus, the hearty laugh and heart-felt smile of my Ugandan neighbor, fellow African child of this rich land, privy to its simple beauties and lived sorrows, brings me off my cloud and out of my reverie, inspired by the scenery around me. Every thing in him invites me to his world. A new friend awaits to be made.
Today is a good day to be in Africa.

A conversation with Patrice E. LUMUMBA, 60 years after his assasination: is the time for Africa now?

•October 13, 2011 • 1 Comment

I just re-watched Raul Peck’s LUMUMBA, hadn’t seen it again since high school, and am moved a-new. Afrooptimists have tried in the past , but forces of evil (former colonies reluctant to really let go as well as gain-smelling looting world powers at our borders with fawns outstretched) were too powerful. We wanted to build and prosper, they wanted us divided, subservient and at war, to be able to continue looting in peace. It was David against Goliath. We could not win then.

Tribute to Patrice Emery Lumumba, Thomas Isidore Sankara and all our courageous forefathers who still upheld their beautiful vision for what Africa could become, against all odds. They were 50 years too early. Is now the time for Africa?

This month’s AfroOptimism page is dedicated to the memory of this illustrious AfroOptimist, who gave the ultimate sacrifice for his belief that Africa could be prosperous and free: his own life. His entire life was dedicated to this vision which he made his mission on Earth, at the expense of his family life and life as a regular man, husband and father to his only daughter Juliana.

I invite you to revisit Lumumba’s life, words and vision through the video links below, and be inspired anew to work for the advancement of Africa. Then please join in the discussion of this month: “60 years after Lumumba: is the time for Africa now?”

Let us make Lumumba’s vision a reality, so that he may be smiling down from heaven with the reassurance that his sacrifice was not in vain.. RIP Congo’s Afro-Optimist.

Videos

Lumumba proclamant l’indépendance du Congo libre, le 30 juin 1960, et apportant la rétorque historique aux belges (FRENCH)

More context & background on Lumumba’s June 30 1960 Independence speech (English):

Exclusive historical footage of Lumumba live before his assassination

I can’t believe this is really all on tape!! so far back, yet so very recent.. (courtesy of Raoul Peck)


Discussion

60 years after Lumumba: is the time for Africa now?

Perhaps Lumumba, Sankara and all the visionaries at Africa’s Independence, our first missed turn, were 50 years too early. Colonial interests (la Françafrique, Belgafrique, UKAfrik, whatever you wish to label it) were then too strong, too tenacious for our first revolutionaries to win their struggle for true freedom, social justice and prosperity for Africa.

Today though, one can assert that the continent, in many of its parts at least in its urban centers, today experiences more transparency. The CIA can no longer just abduct an acting elected . The true evil role of former colonialists is now an accepted fact. The new word of the day is Partnership à la américaine, and no longer Paternalism. One can purport that in this context of waning colonial grips on the continent, there are better chances today of Africa taking off its development project, and delivering on the vision of our independence day revolutionaries, making their dream then a reality now

Does Africa have better chances today?

What new odds, opportunities and constraints, different from those at Independance day, are we confronted with today? Relative to those of the 1960s, do these new odds augur of a brighter or a darker future possible for the continent?

Is the time for Africa ripe today? Or is the time not yet ripe? Why and why not?

This is the discussion theme of the month. Afro-Optimists: let the comments galore begin!

My 2 cents

The odds that Lumumba, Sankara and co. faced are starkly different from the ones our generation of Afro-optimists face. The evil. Globalization can be used as a force for good to generate income in our income-deprived rural areas, and open up opportunities

But still tenacious is the mental colonization of our people, evident in the psyche and choices our governors make, perpetuating former extractive illegitmate institutions (Aimé Césaire’s nightmare of “black imperialists replacing the white ones” has unfortunately become reality); evident in even the most minute yet alarming practices of our people, who bleach their skins off its melalin and straighten the beautiful kinks that God has endowed us with, dying them blonde even sometimes.

These deeply-entrenched self-hate practices, the fruit of a century of foreign domination preceded by 4 other centuries of slave trade, will take a while to uproot. But seeing young girls, the new generation, in Nairobi’s upbeat streets brandishing their Afros high, and a new wave women leaders such as Ellen Johnson Sirleaf , our newest Peace Nobel Laureate, taking center stage; then I lose my fears and have hope renewed that we will get there. We will be free, one day, soon.

I’ll end my 2 cents with the following thought:

Knowledge of your history is a burden. Once you know where you’ve come from, and all of the past sacrifices and lives laid down on the way to where we stand today, you can no longer remain passive. You have no option other than to take on the historic mission of making Africa’s advancement a priority, and carry on the struggle for a prosperous and bright future for the looted martyr continent.

-afrooptimist

Green Thursday in the Life of the Nation of Senegal: The Day everything Changed & Ticking bomb finally exploded

•June 24, 2011 • 1 Comment

Green Thursday in the Life of the Nation

Green Thursday in the Life of the Nation of Senegal: The Day everything Changed & Ticking bomb finally exploded

 

The Nation of Senegal came out in all of its flying colors today to defend the Republic and express its full sovereignty over its destiny

 

Green for the color of hope, green for the color of renewal, green in opposition to the oppressing claw with which the ruling party of PDS (the Parti Démocratique Sénégalais) had reigned over the country of Senegal for the past 11 years of rule–whose color of representation was blue, once the symbol of SOPI, or change, when PDS’ leader Abdoulaye Wade was elected to power in 2000 toppling a 40-year regime.

Today all across the country, flags and party houses of the PDS were burnt down in the streets, along with stoned cars, government buildings and houses of deputies known to be lieutenants in the ruling party.

 

Thursday June 23 was indeed a historic day in the life the Nation that we the youth of Senegal will never forget. The Nation came out, in all of its glory and fury, men and women, youth and old, poor and rich, swift politicians and lay common men/women, and took to the streets together as one to contest a law proposal orchestrated by the Presidency that was to change the rules of the electoral game to enable an easy reelection for Abdoulaye Wade for a third 7-year term in the upcoming February 2012 election –halving the minimum percentage of voters required to win at the 1st round from 50% +1 vote to 25% of all votes expressed, and furthermore instituting  a vice-presidency, without any consultations or consensus with the people, a logical pre-requisite to such a sweeping constitutional change.

However the people of Senegal today did not just come out to contest, legitimately, the nth makeover of their constitution. They came out because this was the act too much, the drop that made the full vase tip over.

 

This explosion that took the form of hundreds of thousands of Senegalese men, women and youth, marching to besiege the National Assembly and the main streets of Dakar, as well as those of all regional capitals across the country (Thies, Diourbel, Kaolack, Fatick, Saint-Louis, Ziguinchor), demanding that the law proposal under examination at the National Assembly be repealed and fighting armed policemen with their bare hands and stones screaming to the top of their lungs “Y’en a marre” (We have had enough!), was the explosion of a bomb that had been ticking in my sense for the past 5years. Indeed during the 5 years past since the contested political re-election of Abdoulaye Wade in 2007, the 80+ year old president of Senegal had been lining up politico-financial scandal after politico-financial scandal, which made his once soaring popularity scores plummet. To name but a few of these: the billions of the Muslim Summit Organization squandered and mismanaged by his own son; the millions of the partial privatization of the national Electricity company, Senelec, and more recently of the Telecommunication concession leased to a less competitive third party different from “Orange” the largest telecom provider but with whom the president had struck a back-table deal; the privatization of the National Port to a private Dubai company to whom Wade’s son was connected; the ransacking of an anti-government broadcasting company’s offices by one of Wade’s lieutenants who never went to trial for it; an unpopular gargantuan statue built using public funding but 35% of the proceeds of which went to Wade’s personal foundation; more recently the purchase of a multi-billion CFA home in the posh side of town by the president who paid for this in cash, destabilizing financial markets with such a dumping of CFAs onto the money market; multiple reported thefts of millions of CFAs in his ministers’ homes, making people raise eyebrows about how these public officials had so much money sitting in home vaults in the first place and not in public banks; the parceling and sale of the public utility lands of the National Fair which was a prime resettlement site for victims in the advent of a humanitarian crisis; the parade of brand new luxury cars in the brand new streets of the corniche linking the airport to the presidential palace while the majority of the population labored for hours in a defunct public transportation system to get to work from the cheaper housing neighborhoods of the banlieue to their workplaces in central Dakar; the housing bubble; the general air of impunity and witch hunt against anyone who dared make money outside of the president’s intimate circle; the repeated creation and dismantling of government ministries, institutions and national agencies as needed to give “a piece of the cake” to faithful followers and PDS militants, etc. The litany of scandals stretches endlessly.

 

The most insufferable scandal however to the Nation of Senegal –a country, it is important to note, that has had multiparty elections since 1974 when it was only 14 years of age as a country free of the colonial yoke –was the de facto grooming by Wade of his son to inherit the Republic, a rumor at first which the Senegalese people could not believe, having elected Wade through the ballot only a mere 7 years back, but which became increasingly corroborated by the series of acts posed by President and son over the past 5 years. Yet the Nation gave Wade and son a final warning still, clearly saying NO to the personalization of the State and Wade’s covert plan of a monarchic devolution of power during the 2009 legislative elections, when Abdoulaye Wade’s son, who does not speak even one of the national languages of Senegal as a descendent of French mother who lived all of his life in France, yet positioned as a headliner in PDS’ ballot list, was defeated even in his own voting center in Point E, a strong signal to the democratically-elected president to reform his ways. But Wade did not pick up on the signals and failed to read the writings on the wall. Also he could not fight off the increasing accusations of enriching himself and his family on the backs of Senegalese people and grooming his son to inherit him.

 

On Thursday June 23, after having suffered in relative silence months of intensive power outages in a country that had never know them, even under the most austere years of structural adjustement (Senegal after all is not Nigeria), 5 years of general gloom where Abdoulaye Wade and his parliamentary majority in the National Assembly reigned with an arrogant political fist (an error of the opposition that had boycotted the legislative rounds in 2007 over calls of electoral fraud by Wade to win his second mandate) throttling the country and brazenly appropriating all of its assets (lands, deeds, natural resources, inflowing aid) getting richer and richer, while the majority excluded from the “goody basket” of the State met only shrinking opportunities, rising prices, long nights without power and “no thank you”s to the limited number of jobs still available but to which hundreds of desperate job-seekers fresh out of Senegal’s first-rate universities and professional schools lined up for. That angry youth today mostly, jobless, broke, lost in its quest for values, with nowhere to turn to, and hungry for change, is the one that took to the streets to state loudly that they were fed up of a regime that no longer served their interests, but is own.

 

The People of Senegal took to the streets today to decry the hijacking of their country by a band of self-interested politicians –from all across the spectrum- and of their freewill by the same occasion.

 

What took place in Senegal today was most of all a reclaiming by a People of a voice they thought they had a lost, and a dignity even themselves had forgotten they had.

 

What was most touching to me today watching this day of uprising that shook the young Nation jolting it awake was the diversity of the people who took to the streets –it started yesterday with a handful of determined youth from the movement “Y’en a Marre” (urban rappers and disillusioned youth for the most part) and opposition leaders, of whom a few took dramatic steps to awaken the dignified spirit of the Senegalese people, such as Cheikh Bamba Dieye, mayor of Saint-Louis and minority deputy in the national assembly, who singled himself out by chaining himself to the gates of the National Assembly 2 days before the vote to symbolize how this new law, if passed in assembly on Thursday, would render the condition of the Senegalese man, chained forever to Wade’s dictatorial regime. However by yesterday, eve of the fateful National Assembly vote, men, women and youth from all walks of life were out on the streets.

 

This morning- the riots had reached their paroxysm. The rallying order was to all assemble at Place Soweto, in front of the gates of the National Assembly, and let the voice of the people be heard that the people of Senegal did not want this Law. It was anti-democratic and would give full powers to Wade to implement his foul scheme of devolving power to his son by naming him vice-president –before taking off on a golden retirement paid by our public dimes. Given that the National Assembly deputies, from the PDS ruling party by large measure, no longer represented us, it was time to let them hear us- and loud. In the wee hours of the day, the prior day rioters who had gone home to revive their forces posted out on Place Soweto forming a human barrier against the deputies trying to enter the National Assembly. By 10am, a thousand university students left the University Cheikh anta Diop on the corniche and ran in thirty minutes the ten kilometers separating them from Place Soweto, doubling in size on their way picking along anyone who could join the struggle. The national board examinations for 6th graders in progress were disrupted as marching students took the examiners out of the classrooms forcefully –encouraging them to join the Revolution. I was very touched to see what happened then: the well-to-do bankers, government officials, NGO workers, back office workers, private company bosses, established colleagues and heads of households all across Dakar who had all to lose, all left their offices all at once with the outcry “when the day of death has arrived those who continue to live are not men!” (translation of an old Wolof proverb sang in praise to warriors before the day of reckoning). What was most fantastic was that the women were the first on the streets. They had declared their intent the day before at a planning meeting led jointly by the opposition leaders and civil Forum where one woman took the microphone and stated” if you the men want to stick to meeting rooms and are too afraid to take to the streets, we will” and they formidably did, in all of their anger and determination. And we know that whatever women start will not end until they prevail. It literally gave me the goose bumps as I saw the image of a veiled young woman –symbol of obedience and passivity –who found a way through the middle of the agitated mob on Place Soweto brandishing a large stone in her hands and sent it crushing down back the head of a National Assembly Deputy who was trying to enter the Assembly to vote in favor of the law.

 

As the day of protest continued, people from everywhere –apparently buses on end sent in from Saint-Louis and Kaolack pouring in more people onto the streets of Dakar- joined in, filling the ranks of the fast thickening mob in front of the National assembly and all across the capital. In Medina, Sacré-Coeur, Niari Tali, Thiaroye, Pikine, Guédiawaye, all of the streets pulsed with thde anger of the citizens, with the heart of the mob at Place Soweto pulsating energy and volition through the city’s main arteries in an interlinked chain of anger and determination. Pandemonium broke loose with police forces being fast overwhelmed, not knowing what front to fight off as hundreds of foyers of dissent opened simultaneously all throughout the city, and the country.

 

But the people who did not come to Dakar also marched in their regions- in Diourbel the entire PDS party house was ransack and burnt down to ashes. Not a single bench was even left behind for future PDS members in that impoverished town in the center of Senegal to sit and orchestrate further lootings of the region’s resources.

 

Being in Senegal today was like seeing scenes from a movie one thought could have never been possible in this peaceful stable country of West Africa, once hailed as the beacon of democracy on the continent and a haven of stability amidst its warring despotic neighbors in the sub-region. All across the country, people marched on, unwavering, firing stones at the police and running back strategically when the policemen fired back with hot water hoses poured in from large towering tank onto the mob and tear gas to will. Blood of civil victims and police officers alike lined the streets, mixing with stone detritus and heavy tear gas fumes fogging the air. It was a guerilla fight- one led by ordinary citizens who turned into street fighters for the day with the war cry “We have had enough!”.

 

The people marched on through the day harangued by their conviction and knowledge that now that the bomb had finally erupted, there was no turning back. In unison all across the country people chanted and wore the slogan “Y’en a Marre”, and placards could be seen waved by many, written over makeshift cardboards with felt pen or quickly printed over A4 paper, stating “Touche pas à ma constitution!” (‘Don’t touch my Constitution!), “Wade dégage” (Wade Get out!), or again “La police ne tirez pas sur le people, nous défendons la meme cause” (Police officers, don’t shoot on us we defend the same cause). Spontaneous citizen volunteers went to buy megaphones to direct the flow of the mob, cooked food, provided shelter, water and support the retreating street fighters.

 

This was an unprecedented formidable demonstration of spontaneous popular freewill that nothing, no-one was able to hold back.

 

By the afternoon when the people’s mobilization was not decelerating but rather going crescendo, Wade, advised by all of the country’s religious, military, and diplomatic figures, even lieutenants in his own party sitting in the National Assembly defending the law proposal but fearful for their lives, finally commissioned one of his majority Deputies to announce in Assembly that he was repealing the Law proposal.

 

The country then exploded in one outcry of joy. We the people had won! Democracy had prevailed! The voice of the people in all of its supremacy had been asserted.

 

Many in the mob wanted to remain on, waiting to ambush the exiting “Deputies of the people”, others wanted to continue the march to depose the president at his palace, true to the proceedings of Tahrir Square in Tunisia. But discouraged by leaders and more concerned with freeing the arrested comrades whom the Police got to lay hands on, the mob marched on to the central Police Station of Dakar instead.

 

Green was the feeling in the air of the day as People celebrated.

 

Green for the color of hope, green for the color of renewal, green in opposition to the oppressing claw of the ruling party of PDS that that has reached its ending, through the will of the people, who had elected its leader to power in the first place 11 years ago, and today demonstrated its ability to depose him from power if it so willed.

 

The tragedy of the end of 11 years of PDS reign represents however a new beginning for a nation that FINALLY came out of its stupor to contest its endemic atmosphere of economic morbidity, injustice and impunity, and in the end prevailed. Green Thursday indeed in the life of the young West African Nation.

 

Today the People of Senegal enabled their transition to a new era for their country, and Africa’s democracy: it is the era of Civil Society. The small country of Senegal has demonstrated once more the grandeur of its democracy, and the maturity of its Nation.  I believe Senegal will never be the same after this historic day. 2 dead and 145 gravely injured was the bitter price to pay. But never again is the song sung by all the hearts as people go to bed in Senegal tonight.

Arame Tall

PS from the author: Today more than ever I
am proud to be Senegalese. We have won and prevailed over the antidemocratic
forces of Wade and his despotic regime. Congratulations to the People of
Senegal for your bravery! Congratulations on standing up as one man to fight
for your dignity throwing all fear away! All of you who took to the streets
yesterday, and all those of you who harbored and supported the street fighters
from your homes, I salute you! It is the victory of freedom over injustice
today, of democracy over oligopoly, as the voice of the People was re-asserted
today across all the towns, cities, and streets of the Republic through the
bare hands and sheer bravery of ordinary citizens who took to the streets to
express their self-determination.

Today Senegal is a different country. Gacce Ngalama to all the street fighters
of yesterday! You have my deepest respect, and I am today very proud to be a
citizen of Senegal, once again. I thank you for having reinstated the Dignity
of our Nation.

World Poverty Day 2010

•October 17, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Reporting from the West African country of Senegal on the International Day for the Eradication of Extreme Poverty edition 2010, I am pondering the meaning of this International Day– and the true essence of its purpose.

Worlwide bloggers are contributing their two cents and their optimism, as the UN dedicates a whole page to the event [http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/social/intldays/IntlDay/index.html], as it has every year since the inception of this commemorative day on October 17 1987, but as we acclaim and celebrate and infuse renewed hopes to “Make Poverty history” on the world stage, in countries such as Senegal where this change is supposed to take place no-one knows of World Poverty Day, and making Poverty History is certainly not on the agenda. At least, not as of yet.

Indeed the headlines of this day, a regular day in the life of the land are: “Abdoulaye Wade son’s, Karim Wade, secures inflow of significant funding for road investments”, “Minister X defends the achievements of Karim Wade”, “Abdoulaye Wade has achieved since his accession to power more than the previous regime ever did, purports the National Assembly head”, “In the holy city of Touba, the citizenry movement Yamale collects a few more hundred signatures from the Kalifr” “Fashion: A new trend has women hoisting their breasts to increase their sex appeal”…

“The gap between the smallness of our politics and the magnitude of our challenges is what troubles me” wrote Barack Obama in his Audacity of Hope.

When is Ending poverty ever going to be a priority in the countries concerned where poverty is seen as second nature, the norm? When is it ever going to get on national agendas as a priority issue, one vociferously pushed forward by citizens and diligently put to practice by their governors? Most of all: One felt urgently as the central moral challenge of our age as Koffi Annan simply described it?

WHEN?

These are the questions that are rattling through my brain on this World Poverty Day 2010 spent in Dakar, Senegal, one of the world hotspots for this poverty that the world seeks to eradicate.

Happy celebration nonetheless to all, A Happy World Poverty Day! May rescourse come, and come fast, so that Making Poverty History can become a real priority on the ground, put on the agenda by the governors and citizens .