22 February 2012

Senegal: #kebetu #wade @basileniane

Photo: AllAfrica
A customer at an internet cafe.


"I will vote for Wade, of course!" shouts Amadou, a young taxi driver, taking me to my hotel in downtown Dakar. "Wade has worked hard and that's how it works here." We drive past large posters of the various presidential candidates as Amadou points them out: Abdoulaye Wade, Macky Sall, Moustapha Niasse and Ousmane Tanor Dieng.

I arrive at the hotel where an elderly gentleman greets me at the counter. "Is your family not afraid for you? There were protests not far from here and people were killed. This is serious, very serious. The youth do not want Wade any longer. He is too old." Behind him there is a portrait of the President of the Republic. "He built roads," he explains. "He gave us lights. He did a lot for us."

It's been an hour since I arrived in Senegal and I've only met fans of Wade. I'm a little surprised, after all the criticisms I've read in the international press and on the internet. This 85-year-old politician seems to have many friends.

Mr Blog

However there are demonstrations scheduled to take place at Dakar's Independence Square, organised by the opposition movement M23. After a tumultuous weekend around the country when several people died and others injured, things are heating up again. Mr Blog, @basileniane, is there.

Basile Niane (28) is the President of the Association of Bloggers of Senegal: 

"I blog therefore I am," is his motto. "We, the Senegalese bloggers, have created our own # on Twitter to differentiate ourselves. Renamed as #Kebetu, it means chirping in Wolof, the most spoken language in Senegal."

As the police start throwing tear gas at demonstrators, Niane writes on his mobile:

"#Senegal video Demonstration Independence Square: Cheikh Bamba Dieye received his shot @sunu2012 #kebetu youtu.be/Ne5JJCfU2GM".

Rigging elections

Niane is not against Wade, he says. He came to Independence Square to inform people. "We do not have the power Wade has, but the web is very, very, very powerful. Everyone is on the internet to connect and learn."

Basile Niane is absolutely sure that this election is a very special election: "Never has an election in Senegal triggered so much excitement across social networks. And nobody will be able to rig this election because we are here. Our power is in being able to watch and tell people: here's bad information and here's good information. Even if they do not have access to the internet, they can always use their mobile phones. We are in Africa and we will take the risk."

Follow Basile Niane: http://senegalmedias.blogspot.com

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