He is the son of a car mechanic who began by hustling pirated CDs in car parks and went on to become one of the most influential recording artists in the world.
“I will free myself of all artistic commitments from 2 January next year to enter the political arena,” N’Dour told a cheering crowd at the weekend. “For me, there are two Senegals. The Senegal of the have-nots and Senegal of the haves. My concern is the Senegal of the have-nots,” the musician added on his own TV station, TCM, in the west African country.
N’Dour’s plan has been greeted with wild optimism by his many fans, but not everyone is thrilled.
“The political class is scrambling around to figure out his next move,” said Amadou Diop, an advisor to Idrissa Seck, a former PM and key oppostion figure. “Even if he doesn’t contest the presidency itself, his decisions are going to have a big impact. Anyone he throws his weight behind is going to claw a lot of votes.
“His political movement is going to put pressure on politicians. He’s loved by Senegalese, by music fans, and he’s a shrewd businessman who has created jobs – this is what the people want.”
Best known globally for his songs drawing on Senegal’s traditional mbalax music, N’Dour is also feted at home as an entrepreneur. His announcement came on the back of the launch of Fekke Maci Boolé – which means I Am Involved in the local Wolof dialect – a social consciousness movement he says will “disturb” the country’s entrenched political elites. It is not clear if N’Dour plans to challenge Abdoulaye Wade, the 85-year old president who has been in power since 2000, but his declaration has stung politicians.
N’Dour has repeatedly said Wade – whose age is sometimes disputed – should not stand for re-election after winning two free and fair polls. With a string of hit albums, such as Absa Gueye and 7 Seconds, the musician’s words will worry Wade, who has in the past tried to shut down N’Dour’s newspaper and TV station.
Long seen as a haven of democracy while most of its West African neighbours were ravaged by strongmen and coups, Senegal has suffered popular protests this year. In February, Wade sparked a storm of discontent after announcing plans to stand for a third term, saying the two-term limit did not apply to him because he only introduced it during his second term. That helped trigger a movement known as Y’En A Marre – French for Fed Up! – headed by a group of rappers and a journalist.
Fadel Barro, one of the founders, said the idea was born after he spent almost 24 hours sitting in his darkened flat due to power cuts this year. “There comes a moment when you think, enough is just enough. Life in Senegal is getting more and more expensive and the president decides to buy planes and build a $27m statue,” he said, referring to a 160-foot tall bronze African Renaissance statue.
In June, when Wade again suggested tinkering with the constitution to lower the votes required to 25 percent from 50 percent, thousands of youths took to the street with Y’En a Marre. Wade backed down from the amendment.
The elections are due in February 2012.
Monica Mark, The Guardian