By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT
Arriving at Kaolack around two pm the first thing that greeted me were hundreds of billboards across the city of Kaolack showcasing Senegal’s President Macky Sall with Gambian counterpart President Adama Barrow. Just last month both President’s inaugurated the much anticipated SeneGambia Bridge in face of overwhelming fanfare. According to one of the locals I learned that the Mayor of Kaolack, Mariama Sarr is from the ruling party, APR of current President, Macky Sall who will be vying for his second mandate under his coalition Benno Bokk Yakaarr (BBK).
Journey to Kaolack
My first trip to Senegal since 2016 was to cover the political campaign rally of Ousman Sonko, Presidential flag bearer for the opposition party, Patriots of Senegal for Work, Ethic and Brotherhood (PASTEF). At 44 he is the youngest candidate with the remaining three consisting of former Prime Minister Idrissa Seck, Issa Sall, and Madické Niang who are contesting to dislodge Macky Sall come election day, February 24th 2019.
Macky Sall has been progressing an aggressive campaign including the inauguration of a number of Infrastructure projects across the country including the aforementioned SeneGambia Bridge. His critics claim that most of his projects are incomplete and simply a political stunt to boost his popularity.
Speaking to the enthusiastic crowd at Kaolack, Sonko begun by apologising for the late start. The rally scheduled to commence at 5 pm was two hours late. After the usual fanfare and introductory speeches from local, cultural, religious and political leaders, Sonko mounted the stage just after 8 pm beginning his message by promising system change.
Speaking in a mixture of Wollof and French he said “since we began our campaign like we have done everywhere in Senegal and the Diaspora. The message we received from the masses is that it’s time for us to change the system.” His message was met with huge applause from the crowd who’s rousing applause when he took the stage delayed his speech temporarily.
“Our Coalition, Sonko 2019, our first victory is imminent. When we started politics our main drive was to raise the political awareness of Senegalese people to understand that we have a problem of system and not a problem of people. If we continue to leave the system as it is and focus on changing the people at the top of the system God knows we won’t have the desired result. The system is so rotten that even if you placed the “Messenger” in charge of the system he might also drown in it. This is why we are advocating for an alternative leadership with a difference.”
Values of our True Forefathers
With the crowd hanging on his every word after setting the tone of system change he began to pay homage to the values of Senegal’s forefathers. “Values are the reason you can trust someone with a briefcase of three million, even when someone you trust struggles to pay for their family’s daily food expenses “depanse” they make a conscious decision to look for alternative funds, refusing to touch the briefcase which they have been trusted with.”
“The system that we propose is one of values. Our current leaders lack values and this is why we’re in the current situation we find ourselves. We know the values which our forefathers have instilled in us. Even before we accepted religion, be it Islam, or Christianity our true forefathers had strong beliefs. The values they instilled in us; courage, integrity, honesty, trust and much more. Religion came and found them with these core values which our forefathers lived by.”
President Macky Sall’s Failed Promises
He then turned his attention to Senegal’s current President which he claimed lacks leadership values. “The greatest of all these values especially for leaders is integrity and keeping your promise. It’s imperative for our leaders to be honest about what they can achieve and to avoid selling ideas which they know they can’t deliver.”
What we are promising you today we have the vision and the capacity because we have considered the feasibility of achieving our promises. The candidate called Macky Sall came her in 2012 making promises to Kaolack. Seven years later, since then he promised decentralisation, I want you people of Kaolack to tell me if any of his promises have been fulfilled. Today out of all five candidates one of them has made promises to you and it’s time for you to assess the promises against what he has accomplished. The remaining candidates can be assessed on their promises.”
The next article will highlight Ousman Sonko’s campaign promises.