Does Youssou Ndour have presidential ambitions? To everyone's surprise, Thursday September 7, the Senegalese singer, king of mbalax, the country's most popular music, resigned from his position as minister-advisor to the head of state, Macky Sall, and left the coalition in power, Benno Bokk Yaakaar (BBY). The press release from Fekkee Ma Ci Boole (“I am here therefore I am part of it”, in Wolof), his political movement created in 2010, does not give a reason for this break. And it also does not say whether the 63-year-old artist will be a candidate for the presidential election in February 2024, a vote more open than ever.
Influential businessman and boss of the Futurs Médias Group, Youssou Ndour made his political debut in January 2012, during the mobilizations against the third term of former President Abdoulaye Wade. At the time, he participated in rallies and was injured in the leg. A mishap which will not prevent him from presenting his candidacy, ultimately rejected by the Constitutional Council for lack of supporting signatures. The day after the first round, the singer decided – like the rest of the opposition – to support Macky Sall. He campaigns for him across Senegal, playing on his popularity.
It was the beginning of a long political partnership between the two men. In April 2012, Youssou Ndour was appointed Minister of Culture and Tourism – and then only Tourism. During a government reshuffle in September 2013, he lost his portfolio but won the role of minister-advisor to President Macky Sall. A title that he will keep for ten years.
Loyal to the head of state, the singer spares no effort to get him re-elected in 2019, multiplying free concerts across Senegal. “His political and economic interests are linked,” underlines Moussa Diaw, professor of political science at Gaston-Berger University in Saint-Louis. In Wade's time, he had difficulty setting up his television, obtaining broadcasting permits, and had trouble with taxes. By joining the BBY presidential coalition, he was spared and preserved his economic interests. »
Its radio and television attacked
In parallel with his political activities, the artist continues his musical career, with the release of his album Mbalax, in November 2021, and the presentation of the musical tale Birima at the Théâtre du Châtelet, in Paris, from September 20 to 23. His press group, on the other hand, suffers from its good relations with those in power. On the sidelines of demonstrations against a possible third term for Macky Sall or for the release of opponent Ousmane Sonko, between March 2021 and June 2023, the premises of his radio and television were attacked on several occasions, as well as certain journalists .
“The Senegalese criticize him for never having taken an official position during the deadly demonstrations. He has never spoken publicly about this violence. Nor did he make a song to ask young people to stay in Senegal and stop going illegally to Europe, ”analyzes Moussa Diaw.
Even if he endorsed the ambiguity maintained for several years by the presidency on the possibility of a third term for Macky Sall, Youssou Ndour welcomed the decision of the Head of State not to present himself to the election of 2024. "A President of the Republic who will organize, without participating, the election of his successor, that will be a first in our common history. A very great president you are, an incomparable head of state you will remain, "said the star on his social networks the same evening of the declaration of Macky Sall.
The latter must decide in the coming days on the candidate from his camp who could succeed him. A choice which could fall on the current Prime Minister, Amadou Ba, on the President of the Economic, Social and Environmental Council, Abdoulaye Daouda Diallo, on the former Prime Minister Mahammed Dione or on the former Minister of the Interior and current Minister of Agriculture Aly Ngouille Ndiaye. Youssou Ndour has free rein: support the candidate of his choice... or run himself for the second time.