Reggae star Fakoly tells Senegal's Wade "leave power"

Thu Dec 13, 2007 10:38am EST
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By Daniel Flynn

DAKAR (Reuters) - African reggae star Tiken Jah Fakoly, famed for his bitter criticism of the continent's corrupt leaders, has turned his attention to Senegalese leader Abdoulaye Wade, calling on him bluntly to "leave power."

Fakoly, one of Africa's best-loved musicians and a campaigner for peace in his native Ivory Coast, added his voice to rights groups who have accused the octogenarian Wade of being increasingly authoritarian.

Political posturing aimed at positioning his son to succeed him, the detention without trial of critical journalists and the diminishing power of parliament have all tarnished Senegal's once-bright democratic credentials, Wade's critics say.

"Mr President, if you love Senegal, leave power!" Fakoly said during a concert in the capital Dakar late on Wednesday, to rapturous cheers and applause from hundreds of Senegalese, before singing his anthem for corrupt politicians "Quittes le pouvoir" -- "Leave Power."

Wade, a long-time opposition leader elected in 2000, easily won re-election in February but has since angered many ordinary Senegalese by focusing on preparations for an Islamic conference next year, while ignoring pressing social problems.

The worst riots in decades erupted in Dakar last month when Wade ordered the removal of thousands of street sellers from the downtown area to ease traffic congestion. He has sheltered his son Karim, who is managing the infrastructure projects for the Islamic conference, from testifying before parliament.

"If you don't want your son to be questioned by parliamentarians, you should not have involved him in running the country," said Fakoly, dressed in a long white robe emblazened with maps of Africa.

Despite Senegal's relatively small economy and population, Wade has tried to compete with South African President Thabo Mbeki for leadership on African issues.

Last month Wade launched an impassioned defense of President Robert Mugabe during a trip to Harare aimed at defusing Western criticism of human rights abuses in Zimbabwe.

(Editing by Alistair Thomson and Matthew Jones)