The world-famous Senegalese musician Youssou N’Dour has announced he is entering politics.
He told a cheering crowd during the weekend, “I will free myself of all artistic commitments from 2 January next year to enter the political arena.”
He later explained his decision on his own TV station, TCM:
“For me, there are two Senegals. The Senegal of the have-nots and Senegal of the haves. My concern is the Senegal of the have-nots.”
N’Dour has long been involved in social issues. He organized a concert to free Nelson Mandela in 1985, has worked with Amnesty International and performed at three Live 8 concerts. He started Project Joko to open internet cafés in Africa and to connect Senegalese communities around the world. In 2000 he became a Goodwill Ambassador of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Since 2007, he has also been a council member of the World Future Council.
He is renowned as an entrepreneur in Senegal. As a giant figure in the country, his move will upset many in the ruling elite. Amadou Diop, an advisor to Idrissa Seck, a former PM and key opposition figure, told The Guardian:
The political class is scrambling around to figure out his next move. Even if he doesn’t contest the presidency itself, his decisions are going to have a big impact. Anyone he throws his weight behind is going to claw a lot of votes.
His political movement is going to put pressure on politicians. He’s loved by Senegalese, by music fans, and he’s a shrewd businessman who has created jobs – this is what the people want.
Abdoulaye Wade, the 85-year old president of Senegal, who has in the past tried to shut down N’Dour’s newspaper and TV station, has dismissed a term limit and said he will run for re-election — N’Dour has said he should not.
Wade’s move sparked riots and led him to alter some plans to change the presidential voting system but not the one to stand for a third seven-year term.
If he does become a politician, N’Dour will join a long history, including Gilberto Gil, who was minister of culture in Brazil, Susana Baca, Peru’s current culture minister, Australian minister, Peter Garrett, and former Congressmen John Hall and Sonny Bono.
Listen to Youssou N’Dour:
Picture by Stuart Madeley