Back to Senegal with Barack Obama

Dakar 2011 – They really liked Obama. A LOT.

I have less than a month left in Montreal!

In mid-July I’m heading to Western Canada to visit family, and then back to West Africa to start implementing my fellowship project over the next year. As the realization that this is actually happening REALLY SOON has crept up on me, I’ve been pondering what to expect this time around. I’ll have the big advantage of a head start on the language and culture that I didn’t get last time, as well as some good connections. But I somehow think things will be different on a larger scale too.

It’s an exciting time to be in Senegal. They have their first new leader in over a decade in Macky Sall, who won the last election with a push from young activists, who led a series of stirring pro-democracy movements. The Senegalese economy maintains a steady upwards trend, rewarding the country’s political stability with rapid growth. Yesterday Barack Obama kicked off his tour of the continent with a much-publicized symbolic visit to Dakar. (more…)

The biggest small election

(As some of you may know, I have been involved in past and ongoing work in West Africa. I have been paying devout attention to the current Senegalese elections and finally decided to coalesce my thoughts into an article, which follows.)

 

A young man sends text messages from a Dakar streetcorner. Photo credit: Erik Delaquis

On February 26th millions of Senegalese headed to the polls for the first time since 2007. The results of their first-round voting are forcing a heated runoff election between the incumbent, Abdoulaye Wade, and opposition leader Macky Sall later this March. A bastion of democracy with its parliamentary system and fixed term lengths, the former French colony is an EU darling. At least, for the moment. As riots erupt and the two-horse electoral runoff reaches fever pitch, the future of one of West Africa’s success stories faces a major fork in the road. (more…)

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