Sunday, July 26, 2015


“Becoming Senegal” might be a good title for a movie about the western portion of the continent of Africa. Life started, after being a French colony for centuries, as the Mali Federation, in 1960, an attempt to create a single west African community by merging several countries into one; on this occasion Senegal and the French Sudan. It lasted only a few months. Then Senegal tried again, this time joining with The Gambia to form Senegambia in 1982; that didn't even get off the ground before it was abandoned. Ultimately Senegal went it alone, and has probably done better for doing so, though a group calling itself the Movement of Democratic Forces in the Casamance (MFDC) has been fighting a rather pathetic separatist insurgency in the south for several decades. At the same time, on a continent where Communism has been exploited as a nominal ideology by innumerable right-wing despots, Senegal experimented with the reality under a Socialist Party which held power for forty years, and then walked away without a murmur when it lost the 2000 elections. And speaking of right-wing despots, Abdoulaye Wade became President in those 2000 elections, and was re-elected in 2007; during his two terms he amended Senegal's constitution over a dozen times to increase his own executive power and to weaken the opposition, only to find himself rejected in the March 2012 elections – proof that sometimes the people can smell rats before the fleas they carry have become epidemic. And the surprising thing is – Wade walked away without a murmur too, leaving Macky Sall in charge.

And as if to endorse Senegal's record as a reasonably civilised country, it was Senegal that was chosen in June 2015 to host Africa's first "in-house" war crimes trial, of the former Chadian leader Hissene Habré, who is accused of sanctioning tens of thousands of killings and widespread torture during the 1980s, and who fled to Senegal when he was ousted in 1990. Good on ya, Senegal!

Marks for: 5

Marks against: 2

Copyright © 2015 David Prashker
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The Argaman Press

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