Kim and Rachel take a deep dive into the protests in Senegal, explaining everything you need to know about what’s happening and what it means. They also talk about the recent death of Tanzanian president, John Magufuli.
And in lieu of a guest, we feature our student essay competition winner, Hammed Kayode Alabi! Hammed is a graduate student at the University of Edinburgh studying Africa and international development. He reads for us his winning essay, called “#EndSARS Movement We Will Remember.”
Listen to the episode below!
MSc Student in Africa and International Development at the University of Edinburgh
#EndSARS Movement “We Will Remember”
It’s imperative to historicize revolution because history has its ways of repeating itself. Young people drove the Nationalist struggles in the 1950s to gain freedom (Uhuru) and Independence of Colonial States. People like Kwame Nkrumah, Nelson Mandela, Julius Nyerere stood in lines to make this happen. The struggle started from advocating against poor pay, poor jobs from the colonial government. From there, it rose to a movement for independence. #EndSARS (special anti-robbery squad) started similarly. It began from young people speaking up against police brutality to demanding for good governance, quality education, healthcare etc. SARS is a unique, independent division of the Nigerian Police Force who is supposedly responsible for protecting the citizens; however, their roles changed from protecting the citizens to embarrassing and harassing young people going with their day to day living. So many young people have lost their lives in the process, and some ended up in prison for crimes they did not commit. Some have been injured and became disabled along the line. SARS has made so many family members cry. I have had my fair share too, not as bad as many others but I was stopped because I was wearing a jean and a hoodie. And I was brought to a corner for a lot of questions. At a point, my phone was seized, and they were going through my chats. This has been the way many young Nigerians have to deal with the brutal force called SARS. However, we got tired of hiding, searching, and many young people took to Twitter to speak up, calling the government to end the unit. From millions of tweets to filling the street, young people stood in lines, spent countless nights and chanting and singing for freedom. These characterized our time in October. Although I could not join as I was studying in the UK, I lent my voice online and showed solidarity by joining the protest in Scotland.
There is more beyond the #EndSARS movement. Young people are not only brutalized by the police force but are also marginalized from participating in governance. However, they did what a generation could not do. They spoke up. They were tired of keeping quiet. Yes, our parents had kept quiet enough but we can’t. The chant #sorosoke, meaning speaks up became popular and revealed so many ways how people have been repressed not to demand their right. During these moments of protest, young people did what the government would spend nights of planning and billions doing. They raised funds leveraging technology and fed protesters who are majorly young people. They organized, they mobilized, they looked out for each other. There were barely cases of a robbery at the protest ground. These are young people over the years who have been denied political leadership. I hope we can learn from this and see how young people are putting their lives on the line to replicate democracy. I hope we start to think that one size doesn’t fit it all and as much as the older generation desires leadership, the younger ones have the skills to push the economy forward and orchestrate a new Nigeria.
During this period there were good news, one of them was an international company Stripe acquiring Paystack, a company created by two Nigerians in a 200 million dollar deal. Again, I hope we can learn and see how we are breaking into international markets and liberating the economy. I hope we understand the need for this knowledge in politics, education, and other space. That, I don’t have to be 70 to lead ministries and organize. I hope we understand that poverty isn’t just a name, but it’s deeply rooted in politics, poor economics, and an unfavourable atmosphere to do and run businesses. That, it’s just the economy being in the hands of the few. However, the euphoria and energy that came with the #EndSARS began to diminish. Thugs were sent to protest grounds, peaceful protesters were attacked, and in many cases, peaceful protesters were blamed for many of these atrocities, in the name of ending the protest. Young people did not deter; they continued to speak, mobilize and protect themselves until the nights of 20/10/2020 when they were massacred by the Nigerian Army as reported by different news agencies. In [Nic] Cheeseman’s book Democracy in Africa, every repressive government is always faced with the options to choose to reform or to repress based on what they hope to gain or lose. And conceding to reform means young people would continue to demand change which may hinder them. So they choose repression. Although they may have chosen repression, it will be on record that young people spoke up and demanded what is right. It will be on record that some gave up their lives for freedom, and we will continue to remember them. We will not forget #EndSARS movement. Yes! We will remember.
Books from the Episode
Other Links and Articles
Previous Episodes We Mentioned
Kim: Welcome to Ufahamu Africa, a podcast about life and politics on the continent. I’m Kim Yi Dionne, your host. In this week’s episode, we take time to go deep on the protests in Senegal. So, we don’t have a guest joining us. Instead, I get to have that conversation with our resident expert on Senegalese politics. My co host, Rachel Beatty Riedl. Hi, Rachel!
Rachel: Hi Kim! So, before we get into that deep dive, which I’m really looking forward to, I wanted to share some recent news out of Tanzania. President Magufuli has died apparently related to COVID. And this marks a very historic transition with Samia Suluhu Hassan becoming Tanzania’s first female president, and the first leader born in Zanzibar to be president and the current lone female political head of government in Africa. President Samia is the sixth president of Tanzania and she will serve the remainder of Magufuli’s second five year term, which is set to expire in 2025. And this location is also certainly a somber one, with Magufuli’s passing as we reflect on his legacy, and consider the optimism that many Tanzanian citizens felt with his election and the early years of his presidency, the promises of anti corruption campaigns and his efforts to make government work in the service of the nation. But as Aikande Clement Kwayu, research fellow at the University of Wisconsin, Madison writes in the Mail and Guardian, Magufuli’s legacy includes rolling back Tanzania’s democracy, cracking down on opposition, cementing the ruling party’s power, tightening the noose on the media and a crackdown of civil society and denying the existence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kim: It’s a really important point to be making. And I was, you know, watching as people were remembering Magufuli on Twitter, you know, as watching a lot of people forgetting those other less positive contributions, he made it to the history of Tanzania. Nanjala Nyabola, of course, was cautioning us against writing these hagiographies, right, these kind of celebratory biographies of Magufuli that forget, you know, the challenges he brought to, to citizens, but especially to the media, who, you know, and Nanjala and her Twitter thread had named some of the journalists that faced, you know, really severe punishment for questioning some of the actions that Magufuli and his government were engaging in. Even, you know, on the show, you know, a few years ago, when I spoke with Constantine Manda, in 2017, Episode 13, you know, right, so the first season, there was already that early in in Magufuli’s presidency, there were already signs of this increasing in authoritarianism. And in fact, in the most recent episode this week, from our friends at Into Africa, there was a panel on populism and Magufuli was featured, as you know, one of these examples of populism on the continent. It was a really great episode. I loved what the guests had to say, you know, included one of our former guests, Kathleen Klaus, just really kind of thoughtful talk about populism. And I think a question that Magufuli’s death raises for us for the future of Tanzanian politics is, what will this mean for what was, you know, rising populism in the country? Now that, you know, populism was certainly something that Magufuli was engaging in, but will we see Samia Suluhu Hassan, carry the torch, or are we going to see a real shift in the kind of politics that that we’ll be practicing? She has quite a bit of time, right she has till 2025, as you said, and you know, the ruling party, The Chama Cha Mapinduzi, the CCM, it’s going to be curious how the ruling party and how President Hassan are going to move forward, if they’re going to keep some of the practices that Magufuli had introduced, if they’re going to roll back, especially some of the more authoritarian practices. You know, there were a lot of concerns to in this transition. You know,there was a significant period of time that, you know, there were rumors about Magufuli’s ill health, and my colleague and frequent co author Boniface Dulani, I remember had posted on Twitter maybe a week ago. These developments in Tanzania are reminding me of what was happening in Malawi in 2012. And what he was referring to, of course, is this research paper that Boniface and I wrote about the death and office of then Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika and how there was a lot of secrecy around the President’s death. So that, you know, in that case, the president died one day. And it wasn’t until two days later that it was formally announced that he had died. And in fact, even after he had died, there were people, you know, of course, close to the dead president, who were trying to maneuver in ways that circumvented the Constitution. In the end, Joyce Banda, you know, became president of Malawi, right, so another kind of first female president who ascends to the presidency only because of the death in office of the president and, and so we eventually see a constitutional shift. And again, you know, here in Tanzania, you know, the the details around Magufuli’s death, and ill health proceeding his death, are still yet to be concrete. You know, as you say, some people are attributing it to COVID, the official government line is that he had heart problems, you know, it’s gonna take time for us to learn what exactly happened. And I think it’s, like you said, it is a somber moment, I think anytime a country loses its leader in office, I think, you know, one thing that Bono and I learned is that the death in office of a president can usually yield some constitutional or legal oriented shift. But what we want to focus on, I think, as we think about these things is, what about when the leader is just sick, because there’s not a lot of talk about that. And also, you know, thinking about what this will mean for Tanzanian politics, what this will mean for this long standing ruling party going forward. We’ll have to watch and see and hopefully have someone to talk in depth with us about that.
Rachel: Exactly. Kim, I figured it really, you know, the questions ahead are really interesting, as we think about what the nature of the relationship between a president and a vice president, what that represents for who is selected to take up the post of the vice presidency, often those are chosen to kind of share power to balance, no surprise here with the representation of Zanzibar. But then what that means for the next set of succession questions, and internal CCM party leadership and management, which has been so carefully institutionalized and managed, you know, as a dominant ruling party, since independence, this is how CCM has continued to regenerate itself. And so now, I think it’s a really interesting point for the party, and for the political landscape ahead, as that shifts in relationship to this unanticipated transition.
Kim: Yeah. I mean, it makes me think we’re going to have to get Yonatan Morse back on the show to talk about, you know, what he thinks might be happening. And, you know, and of course, invite again, Constantine Manda, maybe others like Ruth Karlitz. So, I’m just naming all of these political scientists, we know that know a lot about politics in Tanzania, Keith Weghorst, and some others to get a sense of what this is, what this means for the CCM? Yeah, well, so before we get into Senegal, we have a lot of bonus links that we’re just not going to have time to share today. So, we’ll post those on our website. But also I want to just share with our listeners and these links will be posted on our website as well about an upcoming conference. It will be taking place on March 24 to the 26th. And this is being hosted by UNAM, The National Autonomous University of Mexico. UNAM has a university program of studies on Asia and Africa and together with University of Massachusetts Boston, they are hosting the second international colloquium on African Studies. And this online event, which again is March 24 to the 26th will feature panels that focus on the structural changes after COVID-19, decolonial production and South-South cooperation. They’ll also have panels on migration, human rights, transnationalism and in particular, transnationalism in lusophone. Africa, in Portuguese speaking countries. So, check out all the bonus links on our website as well as that information on UNAM’S conference. And we hope that you’ll have a chance to register and have a listen to those panels. So, now what I’d really like to do, Rachel is to turn to Senegal. So, you know, that is, as many of our listeners don’t certainly, you know, Rachel, one of my great shames is that I don’t read French, I don’t speak French. I don’t read French. So, one of the challenges for me and understanding events as they unfold in Francophone Africa is that I’m reliant so much on English language media, to get that information. And I felt that really acutely with the protests in Senegal. So, I wondered if, for me, for the benefit of me and other listeners like me, if you could just give us an overview of the protests, you know, how did they emerge? And how would you put these current protests in Senegal? In a broader but still contemporary context of Senegal’s continuing democratization?
Rachel: Yeah, thank you, Kim. And I just want to give a shout out to another fellow podcast Africanist who recently interviewed two great Senegalese scholars, Oumar Ba, who I’m happy to say will be my colleague at Cornell very soon. So, I learned a lot from that podcast, and we’ll have to invite them for a future mashup. But, let me just start with what’s happening right now and then put it in a bit of context. So, Senegal is experiencing these major protests, the largest that they’ve had in decades, thousands of mostly young people youth have taken to the streets, university students in particular have clashed with police. Internet has been slowed down, shut down. Two important television stations were temporarily shut down. At least eight protesters have died. Businesses have been looted and burned, especially focusing on the French chains such as total gas and Ocean supermarkets, for example. And one senior official, for example, describe the country as being on the verge of an apocalypse. But why these protests? So, the protests were sparked when on March 3, when opposition leader Ousmane Sonko was on his way to court to face rape charges. Now Ousmane Sonko is a member of parliament, who placed third in the last presidential election. He’s perceived as the most popular opposition candidate to President Macky Sall, who is currently serving his second of two constitutionally mandated terms, and the next presidential election is scheduled for 2024. Now the question of whether Macky Sall will run again remains open even though there is no constitutional ability for him to do so he did make constitutional changes in his first term. So, like his predecessor, Abdoulaye Wade, he could make the claim that he is able to kind of renew his clock. And so that’s one of the issues at the heart of the political crisis. Now as Ousmane Sonko was on his way to court to have to respond to these allegations, very serious allegations of rape. And to begin the judicial inquiry, police apprehended Sonko, they asked him to change his route the route that he was following to greet supporters, and when he refused to do so a scuffle with his supporters ensued and police escalated this and the encounter and arrested him for disturbing public order. So, his arrest was not related per se to the original charge. This arrest was basically the match that sparked a tinderbox of protests which flared up in Dakar and other parts of the country. Now to get to the original claims, which I want to take them very seriously. Sonko has been accused of rape by young woman, Adji Sarr, who worked at a salon that Sonko had admitted to frequenting to receive massage. And Sarr has claimed that the rape itself was followed by intimidation and threats. And she’s spoken publicly about her claims and to seek justice and she is demanding justice in the face of all of this public outcry. Sonko for his part continues to claim that the accusations are part of a conspiracy to eliminate him from the upcoming presidential race, and points to a history in Senegal of eliminating leading opposition figures that have happened just during Macky Sall’s tenure for example, including Karim Wade, the son of former president Abdullah Awad over corruption allegations. Dakar Mayor Khalifa Sall, who has tried and jailed for corruption only to have the president pardoned him a year later. So, at first, Sonko said that he had immunity and did not need to respond to these claims because he is a member of parliament. That immunity was stripped from him. So, there’s speculation, you know, it was his immunity strapped, because these are politically motivated claims was his immunity stripped because he is a member of the civil service who serves the public and needs to respond to these allegations. And, if anyone he should respond, if he’s claiming his innocence, and he should submit himself to the judicial process over this civic case. So, the presidential camp of Macky Sall maintains that the allegations brought against Sonko have nothing to do with politics. And so, the case itself is proceeding, because the allegations and accusations of rape really resonate both with two concerns over the status of women’s rights and controls over women’s bodies and as an arena of political control. And rape was only declared a crime last year in Senegal. And it was after a great deal of civic mobilization by women’s groups and civil society. And the need to kind of follow through with this investigation also reinforces concerns that so many average citizens feel in Senegal, that political elites, incumbents and opposition alike are above the law, that they have this kind of impunity that they’re not held accountable.
Kim: Oh, my gosh, Rachel. So, just when you said impunity, so the whole time you’re talking, all I could think about was how immunity rhymed with impunity. That like there was like that Sonko thinks that he’s, you know, that he claims that he has immunity. It’s like, so he rules with impunity, like he can do, he can just commit things. And, you know, especially when we think about the gender angle, right, and like women’s rights, and it’s really striking to me, I guess, is what I want to say, when you said impunity, I couldn’t help but think about exactly how people in power, feel like the world is for them to rule. And even if, you know, even if he were to be cleared of, you know, not found guilty of any crime. This idea that within the public imagination, that somehow elites, political elites, are immune from justice. And I mean, that would lead me to the streets.
Rachel: And Kim, exactly the structural underpinnings of why there’s so much frustration surrounding this case. Exactly why these accusations against Sonko need to receive a fair, legitimate transparent judicial process, both to restore confidence in the judiciary, which by the way, is the same judiciary that will confirm or annul the results of the 2024 elections. And the same judiciary that Sonko himself, you know, inferred was not legitimate by not taking his claims against the 2019 elections, which he said were fraudulent, but he didn’t take his claims to the court, you know, inferring that they wouldn’t give him due process, right. So, both to restore confidence in the judiciary, and to recognize the seriousness of the violence against women, such claims should be taken very seriously and vetted against any citizen, but particularly one who hopes to hold office in the name of all of Senegalese citizens.
Kim: Right. And I wonder, and maybe this has been reported on and I just haven’t read about it, but you know, so often, when you see reports of protests, anywhere in the world, but especially in African cities, the photographs are almost always of men. And I’m wondering, you know, given the nature of how this began, to what extent women are participating in these protests or if there are counter protests, and I don’t know, I mean, it’s making me think of, you know, some of the, some of the work we’ve featured with other guests, you just recently with Jacqueline-Bethel Mougoué. You know, reading her book made me think about all the ways that women engage in civil resistance. And I’m just wondering, you know, what are the reports, or what are we seeing of women’s involvement in these protests?
Rachel: It’s such an important question, Kim. And you know, exactly right, that Sonko is so popular, you know, and in terms of the youth and so what we see in terms of the protests are often these images of young men out in the streets. What’s so interesting in Senegalese democracy in general is the strength of civil society as a whole and women’s mobilization in particular, but in this case, right, the women’s mobilization is both calling for democracy and, you know, concerned about the political landscape and what it may suggest, but also very much wanting to take seriously the civic issue that underlies the political crisis. So, thinking about Senegalese politics is, is really a lesson in how much citizens have always used protest and voice as a critical way of maintaining and substantively deepening democracy in the country that they see themselves as the guarantors of democracy through their agitation and their action. That’s exactly what’s happening now. It’s the basis of groups like Y’en a Marre, who have been models, you know, and kind of inspired other civil resistance organizations in other countries across the region. So, it is a really a place where I think women’s activist groups and civil society groups are at a crossroads in terms of how to best support democratic content.
Kim: Yeah. Now, you had mentioned in your overview, how some of the protests were kind of targeting their anger towards French owned businesses, like Total Gas, for example. And I’m wondering about this role of France in Senegal, you know, the continued kind of neocolonial presence of France,whether or not, you know, necessarily through direct administrative rule, but certainly through, you know, power over material assets and wealth and structures of income in Senegal. And so, I’m just wondering, you know, what has France the government and French people like, what role are they playing as well, in what’s unfolding?
Rachel: It’s interesting because so on one level, Sonko’s candidacy and the issues he represents are kind of this triangle of the structural underpinnings are challenges that many citizens feel are concerning. And one of those is a concern about French neocolonialism and French control over economic opportunities, contracting, lack of transparency in bids and and infrastructure projects for example, that Macky Sall has been a big proponent of. So, for example,Son, is a proponent of leaving the French monetary zone, and just a proponent of economic policy that would allow for more national autonomy in terms of his economic reform plans. So, that’s one way in which his candidacy has brought to the fore this kind of moment of making protests targeted towards anti French or towards French businesses, for example, now the French government and international business community overall are sort of seem to support Macky Sall.
Kim: Of course, it would be in their interest.
Rachel: Exactly. And the French military has a very important base in Senegal as we think about the broader Sahel strategy so that Senegalese stability and security are important geostrategic concerns, and Sonko and his party have emphasized the need to break Senegal’s neocolonial ties with France. Sonko has also been a big proponent of vowing to rerenegotiate mining and petroleum contracts as Senegal’s offshore oil production is slated to ramp up and kind of hit the market in the coming year. So, there are many interests at stake in the kind of bilateral relationships, and so the citizens are, are expressing their frustrations against the French. But what they’re seeking really is transparency in contracting, in political elite, business dealings and multinational and bilateral investments. And so, this kind of underlying disconnect discontent is about economic opportunity for the youth and, and the ways in which political elites’ use of the of the system does or does not support the interests of the citizenry.
Kim: So, related to that, and following on something you talked about earlier, and something we talked about a lot actually here on the podcast. You know, do the citizens want a third term for Macky Sall? It’s so fascinating the maneuvers politicians can make around, you know, constitutional rules. I mean, I remember when Maki Saul came to office, you know, wasn’t he saying he would only serve one term? I mean, let alone two. And now we have this discussion of maybe three, I mean, you know, I want to know more about the regional kind of influences of, you know, how much not just on elites, you know, when Macky Sall some of his neighbors engaging in these third term bids, does that embolden him to also engage in something similar? But likewise, do citizens seeing these third term bids by presidents in neighboring countries? Does that make them feel a certain way about it? You know, I’m thinking, in Francophone West Africa, in particular, of other presidents trying to take, third, or who knows how nth terms. And all the Afrobarometer survey data from, you know, there’s not a single country where citizens are a majority in favor of, you know, extra constitutional terms. So, I’m wondering, you know, what role can public opinion play in this third term discussion? And how do we think about, you know, neighborhood effects, seeing what’s happening in neighboring countries?
Rachel: Totally and because of neighborhood effects, Senegal, in this moment is so important in terms of what happens for 2024 because of their past experiences, and affected by, you know, everyone else in the neighborhood. So, the fact that their term becomes a third term bids are becoming so common is definitely worrying. And it makes it more plausible that Macky Sall will try such a maneuver. He absolutely has a legislative supermajority, he’s already carried out constitutional change. So, he could do the same logic of Abdoulaye Wade and reset the clock, you know, but what’s interesting is the intensity of these protests and also his own example. He came into power, following the rise of protest politics against incumbent Abdoulaye Wade, who in the run up to 2012 elections, Abdoulaye was attempted to amend the constitution for the second time, which would have eased his path to reelection by lowering the first round votes. If you get over 50%, then you don’t have to, you know, go to the second round in which the incumbent becomes much more vulnerable on a second round, because you have more possibility for the opposition to coalesce. He wanted to lower that first round threshold to 25%. And therefore, hopefully, avoid a second round. Major protests right against citizens using voice to say “no, we are not in favor of this”, expressing themselves. He backed down on that amendment. But he did run for this disputed third term, right because the Constitutional Court said he could but it was protest and voters that brought Macky Sall into power. They said no, Abdoulaye Wade, you may be judicially approved, but it is not voter approved. So, Macky Sall knows well, the power of the street. And since then, he has been using his presidential powers to eliminate competitors. So, that’s what I think is incredibly worrying, to weaken the judiciary, and to take out potential rivals. So, citizens and their willingness to contest for democracy is really absolutely so important both for Senegal’s next steps for what Macky Sall is probably calculating from this moment, making it much less likely, in my view, you know, projecting forward that he would attempt to third term because he’s seeing this kind of reaction and support for democracy and support for the strength of that constitutional term limit in judicial terms and, you know, pragmatic terms. So, I think citizens, civil society groups know that each step of this process has to be monitored, contested and that voter rolls, candidate registration eligibility, these are all the kinds of next steps that will pave the way to the election.
Kim: Now, I want to think about possible paths forward from this point. You know, I don’t know, as you’re talking, I’m trying to think of all the various actors… So, citizens willing to take to the streets, judiciary that has sufficient independence to be able to rule in a way that’s consistent with the constitution or in the best interests of the nation. I’m also wondering about the military, you know, given that, just looking at recent experiences elsewhere on the continent where there can be a choice made by the military, whether to support what is the constitutionally deterred determined outcome or something else. And especially given this role of France, and French coordination with the military, and, for these geostrategic reasons for France, but also that comes with monetary support. And so, it’s so deeply complicated, you know, but thinking about all these different actors and how their varying interests and what moves they could make, I wonder if you could forecast out for us, what is maybe the best case scenario? And what is do you think some potential bad case scenarios that could come to the fore?
Rachel: Yeah, yeah. Thanks, Kim. I mean, I hope, and, you know, I agree with Lisa Mueller’s work, for example, here in terms of the power of protest and some of the optimism that it carries. And I think Senegal is a great example of the ways in which that has worked. So, I think in many ways that a best case scenario is that democracy is indeed strengthened and deepened and reaffirmed in terms of citizen demand for it, and what it means for them, but that also other domains are simultaneously bolstered. And I think that’s where a big question is, what domains of Senegalese political and social life will be lifted up through this moment, or repressed and limited, right? So, this is a moment in which human rights and and women’s voices need to be strengthened and, taken as central and not cast aside to political drama or strategies. This is a scenario in which judicial integrity and electoral process integrity need to be bolstered and made more legitimate in the eyes of the citizens, that structural economic concerns are taken seriously. In terms of what is motivating people to come out to the street and Macky Sall’s unfulfilled campaign promises to address that the growth in Senegal, which has had fairly decent growth rates in the last decade, but who is it oriented towards and who is it benefiting? Where are opportunities for the young population to apply their capital and lead to productive and satisfying lives, having increases in human wellbeing? So, those are our major domains where there’s a need for improvement, and then on the accountability and transparency front, for contracting for political elites, business dealings, you know, these kinds of opportunities to investigate incumbents and opposition alike, are seen as not political drama, but as real opportunities to hold powerful people accountable. So, I think that those are ways in which the how this process unfolds, how the case unfolds, is an opportunity to show that no one’s above the law, and that the law matters, and it’s meant to protect its citizens. So, the role of the military here raises a really important point. And there are many ways in which we could go into a worst case scenario in which the claims of violence against women are further silenced. In terms of politicized, I think that’s a very extreme concern. I’m also somewhat concerning the fact that Sonko is from the Casamance region. And you know, there’s a consolidating peace. So, I’m worried about the implications of kind of geographic, or subnational conflicts returning with this kind of political conflict. And the role of the military, I think, is an important one to consider. In particular, because Senegal has been this bulk work and stability and security. They’re an exporter, to the region, of military and security professionals. And so if this is a moment of deep political crisis, who is seen to be excluded from society, our youth seem to be excluded from society, our religious leaders who have been so integral and deeply related to kind of voter choice and political elites… Are they seem to be integrated or are some of them seem to be excluded? And so to me some of the security threats from the region that are based not only on but in part are fed by structural discontent with the way economics and politics are working for some of the citizens. I worry that those will become greater threats and that the role of the military may not always be used to support those citizens who are feeling so excluded. And so I worry about that kind of conflict becoming more exacerbated. I don’t see that as likely. But the stability and strength of Senegal’s democratic society and civil society and its relationship to the youth, its relationship to religious leaders is such an important element of its contribution to regional stability as well.
Kim: So, I wonder if we think about, you know, these various paths forward, and the ways that, you know, people outside Senegal, can try to help push things toward, you know, what’s best for Senegalese people. I mean, obviously, Senegalese citizens are finding their own ways to demand accountability to also safeguard their own rights and to safeguard their own democracy. But I wonder if there’s a role for other regional actors, like ECOWAS or citizens in ECOWAS countries, or even those of us all the way across the Atlantic here in the United States, you know, are there roles for people on the outside, you know, Senegalese in the diaspora? Like what are the roles for people who want to tip the scales towards the best case scenario? What could some of these actors be doing?
Rachel: It is such an important question, and returns back to this kind of question, what are women’s associations doing? You know, what is their position? Because absolutely, supporting civil society is key. And we see a lot of that kind of pan regional cooperation from countries or civil societies, groups, learning from one another, coordinating and offering each other support. So, I think that strength and reservoir that Senegal also so often exports in terms of civil society activism, you know, if there’s a support coming from regional actors and international actors, that’s all the more welcome to bolster.
Kim: I love that when I asked you like, what are we supposed to do? Your initial response is follow the black women, like follow the black feminist leadership that’s already on the ground, doing the work, create the GoFundMe for the women led women’s rights, gender rights, human rights organizations that are already doing the work. I mean, that’s generally how I like to live my life follow the black feminist women because they’re doing the right thing. But, I love that, you know, that’s your initial response.
Rachel: That’s exactly right, Kim. And I think that basically sums it up. And, you know, to that extent, that the institutions where there’s pressure on the judiciary and where there are pressure on political elites, that they too, should be working to support all of their citizens, and especially, you know, the women of the country.
Kim: Yeah. Thanks for that, Rachel. Well, I hope the rest of our listeners have a better sense of what’s happening in Senegal, what it means for democracy more broadly, and what we can learn from the examples of Senegalese citizens who are trying to take the power that they already have to safeguard their their democracy in their country’s future. Now, what we’d like to do is to close out this week’s episode. We want to share a special treat with our listeners. We’d like to congratulate Hammed Kayode Alabi for winning the Ufahamu Africa inaugural essay competition for his writing on the EndSARS movement. So listen here to what he had to say. My name is Hammed Kayode Alabi. I’m a postgraduate students at the University of Edinburgh, studying masters in Africa and international development. I’m also an activist, and I’m excited and delighted to read my essay, #EndSARS Movement We Will Remember. Thank you Ufahamu Africa for the opportunity for me to share. There is no other time to read this essay than now because there’s this outcry by young people in Nigeria, demanding for good governance and demanding for justice, it is imperative to recite revolution because history as a way of repeating itself.