Monday, December 22, 2008



Sunday, December 21 2008
DAKAR, Senegal

With living conditions in Senegal deteriorating by the day and the government seemingly unaware of the hardships faced by the poor, the country now faces an unprecedented form of social unrest.

The movement, born in one of the most populous suburbs of the Senegalese capital, is led by the Imams, supported by local community leaders and massively followed by the populations.

Local media
The exceptional nature of the movement has prompted the local media to swiftly refer to it using politically strong concepts, including “jihad” and “revolution”.

The initiators however have made it clear that their demands are neither political nor religious.

Their anger has to do with their “daily lives”. “We won’t allow anyone to divert our movement or to transform it into what it is not”, Youssoupha Sarr, one of the movement leaders firmly told the media at a press conference in Dakar.

Interestingly enough, before he became Imam, Mr Sarr was a civil servant, now retired.

The movement started early in December with a protest march to demand better living conditions, and more particularly better services and lower fares from the national electricity company.

The Imam’s unorthodox “sermon” against the State comes at a time when the whole nation is complaining about the same issues: the high cost of living, including the unfairly high electricity fares and most of all about the many power shortages that have turned the lives of citizens into the darkest of nightmares.

Under such circumstances, the Imams' call could only but be heeded by the masses.
This massive support was translated into acts when thousands of demonstrators joined the imams and took to the streets of Guédiawaye, a populous suburb in the far end of Dakar on December 6, 2008.

With its dimensions and increasing demographics, Guédiawaye has over the years grown into a city in its own right, alongside the Senegalese capital.

The poor
Like many other far away suburbs, Guédiawaye hosts a big bulk of the poorest categories of the capital’s population, unable to afford a decent housing in the city centre or its vicinity.

With its 500,000 inhabitants and its fast growing population, the area is not a negligible one. Guédiawaye and its even more populous neighbour, Pikine, have in the past played a major role in elections, both local and national. Their support to President Abdoulaye Wade was decisive in his election victory in 2000.

Nowadays the inhabitants of these two suburbs feel abandoned by the government which they have contributed to elect, hence the massive response to the Imams’ call for protest.