Senegal: Sonko is not the solution to our problems.

As far as basic facts go, I won’t spend too much time on what’s going on in Senegal currently. If you’d like to get caught up, use the hashtag #FreeSenegal on Instagram or Twitter; everything you need to know is there. And if you still need resources, feel free to ask any Senegalese person with an account (given they have common sense) and they will be more than happy to get you updated.

Senegal needs more than just a new President. Since the beginning of this turmoil, which dates back to 1659 when the French first started meddling in our affairs, we have known that the Sonko vs. Adji Sarr plot was just a means to an end. It’s never been about Adji Sarr, who is nothing more than a tool used to achieve that “end.” And ultimately, this is not about Ousmane Sonko either. He is one man that is a representation of the pent-up frustration, anger, and destitution harbored by the Senegalese people. He is one man that we hope can be the catalyst for the change we have long yearned for. But let’s be very honest with ourselves about what will happen when the dust settles: Sonko is not going to transform Senegal into the utopia we have in mind. He will simply lead the struggle and journey, but we would be selfish and irresponsible as a people to put all that burden in the hands of one man. We too must actively participate in the makeover of our country. The Senegal we want, and need isn’t going to be curated by one man – that’s the very issue we’re trying to resolve right now. We must all claim our piece of the responsibility pie and understand that the Knight in Shining Armor we’ve been looking for is in fact in each of our reflections in the mirror.

I have a few ideas on how we can do that, and I am inviting you all to be part of the solutions discussion, share your thoughts!

  1. When it is time to rebuild the country, build it with full ownership, integrity, and sustainability in mind. Meaning we need to avoid this very revolt we’re going through and the only way to do that immediately is to have more Senegalese-owned businesses. How can a young man with 2 degrees and no job in his own home feel any type of remorse or guilt about destroying a French multinational company? Where is the vested interest? It is disheartening for the Senegalese people who work in those establishments – knowing they don’t have a job they can go back to right after the battle is over. But do we want short-term gratification (and chump change compared to what we could really have) or long-term solutions? Let’s change the narrative from “Senegalese people work there” to “Senegalese people own and operate it.” Only then will the youth have a care in the world about the damage being inflicted.
  2. Getting rid of Macky Sall will only resolve part of the problem. He is the apogee of years of oppression, distraction, and manipulation – the deliberate distribution of somnifère to the Senegalese people to keep them sleeping so they don’t have time to question what’s been going on. What we have is a rotten regime that needs to be demolished and rebuilt, just like the concrete buildings. We cannot keep relying on the Guy Marius Sagna, Pape Djibril Fall, Karim Xrux Xax, Assane Diouf, Yacine Fall, and Barthelemy Dias’ of our country to keep fighting this battle alone. Risking their lives and the livelihood of their families every time they are dragged off to jail for daring to speak out against the injustice. We must all denounce it, each and every single time. This revolution is a great start, but we can’t go back to business as usual after a few days. We must keep educating ourselves and keep fighting.
  3. Go back to the basics. We are a beautiful, proud, and creative people. I’m coming from a place of privilege; I am fully aware of that. When I go back to Senegal, I find myself speaking almost in third person when I talk about the Senegalese people, my people, me! Going back to the basics means re-identifying with the resounding power we have. Yacine Fall poignantly said in a press conference on March 3rd that Senegal as a country is “rich but the people are poor.” That is unfortunate and sad. Let’s go back to the drawing board individually and then regroup to pinpoint the many riches we have and learn to exploit it for ourselves. A country cannot develop without education and security but above all, without opportunity! There are already so many brilliant entrepreneurs in Senegal. Genius ideas that make you smirk! Let’s use that as fuel and ammunition to curate the Senegal we need. We don’t need Western solutions infiltrating every aspect of our lives. It’s inevitable because that’s just the world we live in but it should not dictate our every move. Going back to the basics means prioritizing what we need and how we can get it – for ourselves. Leadership plays in a role in creating those opportunities but we as the people play an even bigger role in properly and responsibility exploiting them.
  4. When this revolt started on March 3rd, the government started censoring the Senegalese people living in Senegal by shutting down social media servers and cutting the feeds for TV stations reporting on the news. We are so upset as a people that we were being censored. How dare they!? But I challenge us all to use technology and the Internet more responsibly when this is over. The same way we’re disseminating information right now, let’s continue to do that. Less TikTok and more news sharing. Less WhatsApp stories and more thought-provoking discussions. Less dance challenges and more entrepreneurial displays. That’s how you transform the culture of a country. The media is a no small tool.

Going back to the title of my article, I would like to reiterate how we cannot rely on one man. We are 17 million and that’s much more powerful than one man. That being said, I would like to say Thank You to Ousmane Sonko for having the courage to take on this battle. Thank You for sparking hope in the hearts of many and Thank You for trying, trying to do better by us. Only Allah knows what will come of us but I hope Senegal is victorious. We cannot afford otherwise. Our people are tired.

I could go on and on, but I will stop here and invite you to be part of the discussion. How do you view the current situation in Senegal? Where did we go wrong? Going forward, what can we do better? How are you feeling?

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