Senegal: The Protests Will be “Twitterized”

On June 23, 2011, capital of Senegal, Dakar's streets were stormed by protesters. Their goal: derail the electoral reform that would allow the election of the president with 25% of the votes in the first round and would also propose a dual ticket with a vice-president, much like the American electoral system. The protests succeeded [fr].

If at first the main target of protesters was the National Assembly, mayhem proceeded to extend around the city of Dakar. For nearly 12 hours, various clusters of protesters wreaked havoc across the peninsula of Cape Verde attacking different targets: the homes of influential figures of the Wade regime, the buildings of the national electrical company Sénélec, and the Hotel des Députés (House of the Representatives).

The crowd particularly focused on Farba Senghor, seen as the “Minister of Propaganda” of President Wade: both his Dakar houses and his cars were burned. A YouTube video shows how Senghor had to flee his house, escorted by police:

Many more videos and photos were posted on the net of this hectic day from many angles.

The streets fell silent at 8pm; the last protesters gathered at the Central Police Station in Dakar to ask for the release of the leaders of the “Enough is Enough” [fr] movement who were arrested at the prior events. A YouTube video showed the testimony of Simon, one of the activists of the movement after his release.

Final tally of the protests: 102 injured, including 13 policemen and two human rights activists.

During the day, while members of the parliament were discussing the bill, reactions kept on coming on the web. Internet users were quick to ridicule that the first debate in the National Assembly about the bill was about the spelling errors in the bill. On Twitter, @ofalsen wrote [fr]:

@ofalsen: At the parliament, Iba Thier Thiam says when you are the present tense, you never follow it up with the conditional tense #ticketwade #senegal

The escalation of changes that were made because of pressure from the street has also been ridiculed. @FatCuriosita commented as follows [fr]:

@FatCuriosita: It looks like an auction, 25% and they protest? How about 40%? Still unhappy? OK for 50% but I cannot get any higher #ticketwade

It was around 5pm that they officially announced the withdrawal of the proposed constitutional amendment. While no one can deny that the street was able to bend the government, a phenomenon which some have called the “Peanut Revolution”, President Wade has stated that he withdrew the bill under pressure from religious leaders:

@docboum: Wade said he withdrew it to please the religious leaders, yeah right !

Internet at the core of the protests

Throughout the events, the protesters have commented on the events using the hash tags #ticketwade, #kebutu and #TouchePasMaConstitution.

Twitter was a tool that allowed people to follow the different events around Dakar and to organize the gathering of demonstrators outside the Central Police Station in the late evening. Twitter has also become a way to foil the strategy of the police who did everything to divide the mass protesters and isolate the different elements on the ground.

Moreover, when a number of riots started in neighborhoods, Twitter warned the protesters of the arrival of the Mobile Intervention Group (GMI), the squad in charge of breaking up the protests.

Many people celebrated the success of the protests in various blogs and tweets. Nevertheless, although some continue to demand the resignation of President Wade, what remains of the protests now on the web are images of destruction. Still, the scars from the protests in the city were completely erased by the next morning.


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