Enough is enough

Senegalese collective who brought Abdoulaye Wade down reinvents media activism.

Dakar. Image credit Rachel Tanugi Ribas via Flickr (CC).

“There are no foreclosed destinies, only deserted responsabilities” has become one of the mottos of the collective of Senegalese singers and journalists known as Y’En A Marre (“Enough is enough” in French). In the wake of the 2012 presidential elections, the group gained international recognition for leading the charge against then President Abdoulaye Wade, who was seeking a third term at age 86 while reportedly scheming to hand over the presidency to his son Karim Wade. Y’En A Marre’s international minute of fame may have passed with Macky Sall’s victory but its engagement as a new kind of political watchdog hasn’t faded since the ousting of Abdoulaye Wade. For its purpose is bigger: to form a united front against social injustice in Senegal and to shift the public debate away from politician bickering and back to the issues of ordinary Senegalese.

As the coordinator of the collective, Fadel Barro, warned a few months after Sall was elected [fr], “there’s no point in changing the conductor if you keep playing the same symphony”. Indeed “Y’En A Marre” was the war cry of the collective, but the larger task it has taken on is to advocate for the NTS or the Nouveau Type de Sénégalais (the New Kind of Senegalese).

In the midst of the 2012 campaign, Y’En A Marre had organized “problem fairs” (foires aux problèmes), during which population representatives held booths and asked candidates for solutions. Now Hip-Hop star Xuman has teamed up with Xeyti, another veteran rap artist, to launch a new assault on the usual communication channels between those who govern and those who are governed, one year after Sall became president.

With the Journal Rappé, a weekly 4-minute long news broadcast delivered in rhymes in both French and Wolof, Xuman and Keyti use one of the most popular mediums, music, to both inform a larger audience and hold the Senegalese establishment accountable, to educate through laughters and laugh at the educated.

All the visual clues of a regular news broadcast are present: the large desk, the well-dressed anchor, the shiny infographics, the wires at the bottom of the screen. Only one thing is out of order, the anchor gives a rap performance which begins with the same lines every time: “Welcome, take a seat / We’ve got news for you / There’s some good and some bad / But we’ve got news for you.”

From there on out, “l’information sans chichi” (News with no frills) is a thrilling ride through the weekly Senegalese and international news hashed out in fast-paced punchlines, first in French by Xuman, and then in Wolof by Keyti. The first installment was uploaded to YouTube a month ago:

Among young Senegalese, some had been worried that prominent members of the collective might use the celebrity acquired during the presidential campaign as a springboard to launch their own political career. It hasn’t happened, not yet at least. Others said Y’En A Marre members were getting too lenient with Macky Sall because of the role they played in his election, that after voicing the population’s concerns they had turned aphonic. Instead Y En A Marre members have continued to ring the alarm bell.

Since Macky Sall became president, Fadel Barro and Fou Malade have highlighted land grabs, taalibes begging in the streets or the raise of university fees. Members of the collective have also collaborated with Amnesty International to denounce impunity. In its latest installment, the Journal Rappé fires another warning shot: Xuman and Keyti bring up Sall’s stoutness to discuss corruption, signaling that the “politics of the belly”, as Jean-François Bayart named it, remains a threat to the legitimacy of Senegalese political leaders.

Political sentinels from within who have limited vested interests are a rare commodity; and among those, advocates for change able to cut through the education divide — adult literacy rate is below 50% in Senegal — are even harder to come by. Add to the mix the comical effect of well-crafted lines sung by popular artists in both French and Wolof and you have a recipe for success.

2sTV came to that realisation quickly and now broadcasts the Journal Rappé after its regular news schedule every Friday. Since the third installment, “on-the-ground correspondents” and guest anchors (other members of Y’En A Marre) have been added to the mix, which shows the experiment is progressing and is another sign of success beyond the ten of thousands of views received on YouTube.

As Xuman and Keyti hint in their interview with Global Voices blogger Anna Guèye [fr], the challenge will be to maintain quality and not let irrevence become a marketed product of primetime television.

Using a sports metaphor, Fadel Barro said last January [fr] that the Y’En A Marre squad was “like a national team”: “the leaders are in their respective clubs, working. But when duty calls, they answer”. Xuman and Keyti’s Journal Rappé is a renewed testament to this commitment, one that in time could become the symbol of the movement’s post-Wade engagement. Y’En A Marre is here to stay and that is welcome news for Senegal.

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