DAKAR (Reuters) - Senegalese superstar Youssou N’Dour has stepped up his drive to hold politicians in his West African country to account ahead of February elections that could fuel resentment against President Abdoulaye Wade’s 11-year rule.
In a speech broadcast on the singer’s television channel TFM (Television Futurs Medias) late on Wednesday, N’Dour said he wanted to stop politicians believing they could govern with impunity once in office.
“For my part, I’ve decided to get involved. I will not let the situation in my country, which I did not leave for other places, deteriorate,” N’Dour said. “God willing, I will play my part.”
N’Dour stressed he was not planning to run for office, but wanted to be of service to the Senegalese people and help them overcome their innumerable difficulties and challenges.
Senegal has long cherished its reputation as the region’s most stable and democratic country and has had many peaceful elections since independence from France in 1960.
But there are increasing concerns over the concentration of power around octogenarian Wade, and growing frustrations over worsening public services and higher food prices.
Simmering resentment boiled over in June when Wade proposed cutting the score needed to win an election to 25 percent from 50 percent — a level Wade’s rivals said would have assured him a first-round victory against a fractured opposition.
Protesters, also enraged by chronic power cuts, clashed with riot police in the capital Dakar leaving more than 100 injured and forcing the president to back down.
One of Wade’s chief rivals, former prime minister Macky Sall, said the attempt to rework the constitution amounted to “treason,” and the main opposition party had said it would call for a popular uprising if the bill passed.
N’Dour is widely respected in Senegal for having stayed in his country, despite winning international acclaim and wealth thanks to hits such as “Seven Seconds” with Neneh Cherry.
He sparred with the government last year when he tried to launch the television channel, to add to his radio station and a daily newspaper that is often critical of the government.
The authorities initially denied N’Dour a broadcast license saying the channel would be influenced by “foreigners” funding the station, prompting him to launch a movement called “Fekke Ma Ci Boole” (FMCB) in the Wolof language.
Loosely translated, the phrase means: “I’m taking part because I’m a witness.”
The government backed down after N’Dour showed he was funding the channel without the help of foreign funds and it was launched in September last year.
N’Dour said in his speech that he wanted the FMCB movement to be a place for free and democratic expression, and a forum for presidential candidates and politicians to present their policies to voters.
“Swearing loyalty to my people ... I am and will remain by their side,” he said. “I am prepared to respect my commitment to my compatriots and to defend myself against any attacks. I am determined.”
Additional reporting by Diadie Ba; Editing by Myra MacDonald