Senegal's elderly vote for democracy

While media focus attention on the country's youth, an elder generation compare this election with those gone by.

    With much of the media focusing on the restive youth of the country, Senegal's elder generation has seen elections come and go, and has wisdom to share [Azad Essa/Al Jazeera]

    Dakar, Senegal - Much of the focus on build-up to Senegal's presidential elections has revolved around the disenfranchised, frustrated youth who are desperate for change in this West African country.

    According to some commentators, discontent has been rising to such levels that the country was in line for an Arab Spring-type revolution. And the pre-election violence and unrest was said to be a manifestation of anger amid the country's jobless youth - anger at a president perceived to have developed a severe case of megalomania.

    Senegal's youth is important because they will form the engine of the country's economy and backbone of the nation's future. We all know that they need jobs, medical aid and, at some point, the promise of a decent pension.

    But with all of this focus on youth, what about the elderly of Senegal - those who have spent years building this country's democratic culture after living through the first periods of the independence? How do they feel about the direction this country has taken in the recent past?

    Edging towards the twilight of their lives, the elderly have little to win or lose from this election. But, despite the over-arching tensions, they came to the polling stations.

    They limped, leaning on their sons and daughters for support, and groaned. But they came, and they voted.

    Al Jazeera's Azad Essa caught up with some of Senegal's older generation to talk about the current political climate, the future of Senegal's democracy and their reasons for casting their ballot.

    Doudou Diallo, 90 years old


    Indeed I am old, but I am voting to set an example. I have to show young people what a citizen ought to do. A citizen is meant to choose the right person to hand the destiny of the country to.

    So even if the person no longer feels that there is anything to expect from the country, he is supposed to show the way forward. This is why I am here so early to vote.

    I have voted many times, and I do not remember how many exactly, but I have voted in every election that has ever taken place in Senegal. I voted each time [President] Leopold Senghor and [President] Abdou Diouf was elected. I think its very important to participate in the destiny of your country and i will always participate so long as I am alive.

    What has happened recently [in this country] is such a shame because this has never happened before.

    People need to think about their elders before they engage in such acts. They should be thinking: "Hey, we have older people, who have been responsible and wise, and have been looking after the country". They should be engaging the old and thinking before engaging in bad things.

    Unfortunately, people today are just doing what ever they feel like.

    We are a country with much religious grounding, be it Muslim or Christian, and people need to think about their roots, their religious leaders before they act.

    Mamadou Gueye Seck, 66 years old


    So I have always voted. It is an obligation of every citizen.

    But the main reason I voted this time was because we need change. Things must change. The cost of living is so expensive. Oil, rice, sugar - they have all doubled in price, even tripled.

    In terms of democracy, there was a lot of hope in the year 2000, and people then voted for Wade for change.

    Today, I am even sure if our elections will be transparent and it is clear that Wade is going to do everything he can to remain in power.

    I realise that the opposition parties have had a difficult time, but anyone who comes after Wade will need to behave properly. If not, people will remove them.

    People have reached the end of the line in dealing with has been happening. And Senegal might be known as a peaceful country, but people want change at any cost. The young people have shown that they will take to the streets as they become more and more frustrated. And it is their right to do so. Perhaps they think it is the only solution for them.

    Ousmane Dia Khate, 75 years old


    I voted today. It was quiet, there was no trouble. What comes next, I do not know.

    I have always voted for Wade, but I am 75 years old and I cannot guarantee that [I will] have all of my wits.

    Sometimes, I forget things. But Wade is 85 years old!

    It is obvious: he must go. He does not have the right to be here again.

    And sometimes when I hear that people say that Wade has control over all his wits - even more than people younger than him - I feel sad because I know this is unfair and untrue. I really feel sad.

    I have always voted, and I think that all young people should try their best to contribute to the building of their country. And I can't say who is responsible for all the chaos that has occurred, but I can say that is the regime that has created the conditions for such things to occur.

    However - destroying things, burning and damaging public goods - this is not fair. Perhaps these young people do not really want to be doing these things, and if I was them, I would not destroy things. I would certainly participate by trying to vote out the regime. But I do understand the frustration.

    In 2000, things were excellent and Senegal was an example for countries all over Africa. Everyone was talking about Senegal and there was a lot of hope. When Wade became president, everyone said we were the example of democracy. Unfortunately, there are some people on his side who are so accustomed to the favours and riches linked with the regime that they can no longer see the reality of things.

    When I was working in Cameroon in 2000, I voted for Wade from there. At the time, the people of Cameroon would look at me as if I was a messiah or something ... because they wanted to see a Senegalese because everyone was proud of us. Today everything has died away.

    Seynabou Cisse, 89 years old


    I came here to vote only because my daughter forced me to do so. I would not have come if she did not bring me here, because my legs often ache, and I did not feel it was necessary to come and vote.

    I have very little expectations of anything changing, and this vote will do nothing for me.

    I have always voted, even in 2007 I voted. But when I think of the violence, I am quite sad, as a mother, to hear of so many deaths. Every time I hear about a death, it is quite painful for me. These are children, and they all have mothers who must deal with the loss.

    About Wade's candidacy, it is not my business. I do not expect anything from him. I have voted, I am going home, and he can do whatever he wants to do.

    Sory Ba, 72 years old


    I voted to participate in selecting the person who will lead our country.

    When I think about the violence of this election, I can only conclude that the people who are organising the violence and say they want to be president, are not really serious about leading this country.

    Everyone knows who is guilty of this violence. People have come here from other towns, not known by anyone in this city and then claim to want to be president of the republic. It is caused by the anonymous people who have come here trying to get attention: "Here you look at me, this is what I am capable of".

    If the constitutional council has allowed Wade to run there is nothing anyone can do.

    And if you don't like it, no one is forcing you to vote for him. You can vote for someone else. There is no need to create violence.

    For 40 years this country was run by the same people, and let me tell you, they did nothing for this place. The little that has happened here is only because of Wade.

    And it is not hard to see what he has done. It is all around us. But people are just empty vessels. They have the mind of fish.

    Follow Al Jazeera's Azad Essa in Senegal on Twitter: @AzadEssa

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera



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