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Senegal: Conversations on Drowned Migrants

Senegalese blogger Seckasysteme has been keeping a close eye on thousands of migrants from Senegal who have attempted to reach Europe on clandestine rafts since the beginning of the year. Last week the blogger explained that 23 migrant hopefuls had been intercepted by Senegalese authorities on their way to the Canaries. Monday, he expressed sadness at revelations made by an article on the 11 momified bodies of Senegalese men recently found adrift near Barbados in the Caribbean. Friday he commented on what he calls the images of shame, this poignant slideshow by Seneweb.com of those who have either perished or been intercepted while taking a chance on a better life via the sea:

SENEWEB nous invite à la dureté des Images;celles qui nous montrent la réalité de la souffrance de nos frères entassés comme du bétail dans des embarcations de fortune,décidés,détérminés contre vents et marées,à fuir la misère pour L'Europe et ses lumières.
Les images que nous présente le journal en ligne Sénégalais Seneweb sont un témoignage vivant du drame qui se joue sous nos yeux.Souhaitons simplement qu'elles contribuent au reveil des consciences,à la révolte des Populations pour une meilleure gouvérnance,pour une meilleure gestion de la chose publique,pour une implication plus résponsable de nos Politiques au sérvice des Peuples qui les ont élus.
Chapeau à l'équipe de SENEWEB pour la qualité de ce témoignage.

Seneweb invites us to the harshness of these images which show the reality of the suffering of our brothers plopped like cattle in makeshift rafts, decided, determined to flee poverty for Europe and its enlightenment. The images presented to us by the online newssite Seneweb are living testimony of the tragedy unfolding before our eyes. Let's hope that they contribute to the awakening of consciences, to populations demanding better governance, better management of public affairs, so that our politicians work for the peoples who've elected them.

A Heated Debate on Seneweb.com

On the www.Seneweb.com website, 250 comments have been registered since Monday in reaction to the poignant images, expressing every opinion under the sun. One recurring theme has been whether Abdoulaye Wade's government is to blame and that is perhaps why a poster who claims to be President Wade himself has chimed in. Yet another very popular opinion is that those from the Senegalese diaspora should not misrepresent their trials and tribulations as immigrants to their compatriots left behind and foster the impression that life is necessarily better in Europe. One or two posters blamed those who organize and get paid for the trips. Others have simply expressed shame at all the attention the story is getting or occasionally blamed those who chose to leave in such dubious conditions.

A Poster Named President Abdoulaye Wade Weighs In


Poster La voix de la Verite was among those who blame the government and namely the President:

Le gouvernement est en train de se partager des milliards et laisser le peuple mourir de faim…Quand je vois que le fils wade s'approprie la direction des projets et se remplie les poches, alors que des jeunes mille fois plus eduque galere pour avoir une paye decente. C'est vraiment la honte, wade et son gang est en train de mener le pays a la derive, ils sont entrain de sucer le senegal de son sang, les jeunes sont au bout du rouleaux, y'en a marre… On veux un president sain et competent qui veuille travailler pour son peuple, non pas un president qui agonise et qui ne se soucie pas de nos problemes, son seul problem c'est comment il va mettre son fils au pouvoir…Marre y'en a marre, il faut voter pour quelqu'un d'autre que Wade, vraiment!

The government is enjoying billions while letting the people die… I see Wade's son taking on the management of projects and filling his pockets while young people a thousand times more educated struggle for decent pay. It is really a shame, Wade and his gang are leading the country to ruin, they are sucking Senegal dry, young people are at the end of their rope, I'm so sick of it all…We want a sane and competent president who wants to work for his people, not a president in shambles who couldn't care less about our problems, his only problem is how he will put his son in power…So sick of this, it really is time he is voted out of office!

A poster identifying himself as President Abdoulaye Wade defended the government from the above accusations:

Que pensez-vous de l'immigration « choisie » de Nicolas Sarkozy ? Je suis contre l'immigration. J'ai toujours voulu limiter l'émigration au Sénégal, M. Sarkozy peut adopter la politique qu'il veut. Mais ce n'est pas honnête de vouloir prendre nos diplômés, alors que je dépense beaucoup d'argent pour les former. Je consacre 40 % de mon budget à l'éducation et je ne veux pas que les ingénieurs, les jeunes qualifiés s'en aillent. Malgré un fort taux de croissance (6,3 % en 2005), les Sénégalais continuent de partir. Que faites-vous pour les retenir ? La bonne croissance des dernières années n'a pas eu d'effet immédiat. La télévision, la musique, les quelques réussites à l'étranger attirent : les gens ont leur héros et pas d'emploi. Mais j'ai mis en place des mesures concrètes pour les retenir (…)

What do you think of [French Interior Minister Nicolas] Sarkozy's “chosen” immigration? I am against immigration. I have always wanted to limit emigration from Senegal so Mr. Sarkozy can adopt whichever policy he wants. But it is not fair to want to take our graduates when I spend so much money to train them. I devote 40% of my budget to education and I don't want the engineers and the skilled youth to leave. Despite a high growth rate (6.3% in 2005), Senegalese continue to leave. What will it take to keep them? The growth rate of the past couple of years hasn't had an immediate impact. TV, music and those few who have succeeded abroad are attractive: people have their heros but no jobs. But I have set up mechanisms to retain them (…)

How often do netizens get to talk with their President online? Whether or not President Wade really posted the above comments, another poster by the name of Ceedo, gave him a piece of his mind:

De quelle croissance parlez vous? La television, la musique n'ont rien a voir avec cette situation desastreuse qui est entrain de tuee des milliers de jeunes. C'est vraiment insultant de parler de conneries pendant que des familles sont entrain de pleurer leurs morts. Six ans sont suffisants pour voir des realisations. Les politiciens fermez vos gueules et travaillez.

What growth are you talking about? TV and music have nothing to do with this disastrous situation that is killing thousands of youth. It's really insulting to be spinning things while families are mourning their dead. Six years were enough to prove yourself. You politicians better shut up and get to work.

Is the Diaspora to Blame for Embellishing their Experience?

Immigre
, whose name indicates he has left Senegal, thinks those who have left should not act like everything is hunky-dory in their countries of adoption:

AU MOMENT OU J'ECRIS CES QUQUES PHRASES JAI 1POIDS SUR LE COEUR IL NE ME RESTE QUE MES YEUX POUR PLEURER.JE NY COMPREND RIEN.MOI JE NE PEUT PAS INCULPER CA A UNE SEULE PERSONNE JE NE SUIS PAS DU TOUT POLITIQUE MAIS JE VOUS JURE QUE LE PROBLEME EST AU DELA DE TOUT CA .LA DERNIERE FOIS MON PROPRE FRERE MA DIT QU IL CONNAIT DU MONDE QUI A EMBARQUER SUR CES PIROGUES .JE SUIS ABBATU, JE NE SAIS PLUS DANS QUEL MONDE ON VIT .JE VOUS JURE QUE MON PROPRE FRERE QUI NA QUE 22 ANS MA DIT QU IL A DES POTES QUI ONT EMBARQUER SUR CES PIROGUES .A MON AVIS ON DOIT FAIRE DE LA PEdagogie SUR TOUS CES PROBLEMES ET NOUS IMMIGRES Y PARTICIPER A COMMENCER PAR MOI DE FAIRE COMME SI TOUT ALLE BIEN ICI ET DIEU SAIT ET NOUS TOUS NOUS VIVONS dans des GALERES ET “frustations” DONC DISONS LA VERITE A NOS FRERES ET SOEURS DE CE QUE NOUS VIVONS ET SURTOUT SOYONS HONNETES déja avec nous meme.

As I am writing these sentences, I feel a weight in my chest. All I have left is my eyes to cry. I don't understand. I cannot blame this on one person. I am not political at all. I swear that the problem is beyond all that. The other day my own brother told me that he knows people who have embarked on these rafts. I am so numb. I don't know what the world has come to. I swear that my own brother who is only 22 told me that he has buddies who have embarked on these rafts. There needs to be more outreach on the issue. We immigrants should participate in it starting with me. We keep acting like everything is fine and good over here yet we are all struggling and frustrated. So let's tell our brothers and sisters the truth about what we go through and that will require being honest with ourselves.

But Ceedo disagrees:

Je ne suis pas d'accord avec beaucoup d'intervenants qui accusent les immigres en vacance au pays. Ces gens pour certains travaillent 7 jours sur 7, le sejours au pays est le seul moment qu'ils ont pour se reposer et se devertir. Les causes de cette situation sont a chercher au niveau de la gestion du pays. (…) Ces personnes veulent quitter le pays pour des raisons purement economiques, le chomage est en croissance et ils ont des familles a nourrir. (…) Je pense que c'est connu de tous,il faut attaquer le probleme a la source:le chomage.

I disagree that the diaspora vacationing in the country are to blame. Some of these people work 24/7 and their trip home is the only time they get to relax and enjoy themselves. The country's government is to blame. (…) [Migrants] want to leave the country for purely economic reasons: unemployment is growing and they have families to feed. (…)It's pretty obvious that we need to attack the problem at its root: unemployment.

A member of the diaspora refuses to be blamed:

JE N`ACCEPTERAIS PAS D`ETRE LE BOUC-EMISSAIRE DE PERSONNE. TOUT EST QUESTION DE CHANCE POUR LES IMMIGRES QUI SONT PARTIS DU SENEGAL DEPUIS QUELQUES ANNEES. PARMI EUX CERTAINS ONT REUSSI CE QU`ILS VOULAIENT ENTREPRENDRE D`AUTRES NON. LES CHANCES NE SONT PAS EGALES C`EST LE DESTIN ! CONCERNANT CES JEUNES QUI SE JETTENT DANS LA MER, ILS MANQUENT D`ENCADREMENT MEME S`IL ONT UN PETIT 500 000 POUR PAYER UN PASSEUR CELA NE VEUT PAS DIRE QUE CET ARGENT AURAIT PU LUI SERVIR POUR INVESTIR DANS UN PROJET VIABLE. VOUS SAVEZ BIEN QU`AU SENEGAL DES QUE LA FAMILLE SAIT QU`IL Y UNE RENTREE D`ARGENT TOUS LES JOURS, ELLE TE CHARGE JUSQU`A CE QUE TU SOIS A TERRE. (…) L`ETAT DOIT S `INVESTIR DANS LES PROJETS DE CES PERSONNES. DE L`ARGENT IL EN A MAIS NE S`EN SERT PAS A BON ESCIENT.

I will not be anyone's scapegoat. Immigration is a toss of the coin. Among those who have left Senegal in the past couple of years, some have succeeded in what they wanted to undertake and others have not. Not everybody has the same opportunities and that is just fate! Regarding these young people throwing themselves in the sea, they simply lack support and even though they may have had the amount needed to pay the trip, that money was not enough to invest in a profitable venture. We all know that in Senegal once your relatives know you have a regular income, they charge you until you run on empty. (…) The government should invest more is small business ventures. The funds are there but they are not being channeled properly.

‘A Thousand Reasons to Leave’

Poster Mane doesn't forget the clandestine trip organizers:

EN TOUT CAS CEUX QUI ORGANISENT LES VOYAGES SE FONT UN MAX D'ARGENT SUR LE DOS DE CES PAUVRES GARS PARTIS À L'AVENTURE

In any event those who organize the trips are getting richer on the backs of those unfortunate men looking for a better life.

Amoul Yakar waxes poetic on the issue:

Partir, Partir… Partir pour ne plus me reveiller le ventre creux … Partir pour ne plus sentir le regard sans vie de mes parents … Partir pour ne plus etre la risee du quartier … Partir pour assurer la survie de ma famille Partir pour arreter la souffrance… Partir pour mettre fin au desespoir .. Partir pour que ma soeur ne se prostitue plus Partir pour sauvegarder ma dignite d'hommme… Mille raisons pour partir

Leave, leave … Leave so as not to wake up on an empty stomach … Leave to no longer endure my parents’ empty stare … Leave to no longer be laughed at by the neighbors … Leave to ensure the survival of my family Leave to stop the suffering … Leave to end despair… Leave so that my sister stops turning tricks Leave to be a man … A thousand reasons to leave.

Finally, amidst all the sadness and soul-searching, one poster manages to throw in a tinge of humor:

C LES SENEGALAISES KI POUSSENT LES HOMMES A IMMIGRER CAR ELLES DEMANDENT TROP!

Senegalese women are to blame; they push men to migrate because they are too demanding.
  • http://www.blacklooks.org Sokari Ekine

    Spanish daily El Pais has an excellent animation on the journey from Mauritania to mainland Spain – http://www.elpais.es/todo-sobre/tema/inmigracion/Espana/27/

    See under “

  • http://kiskeyacity.blogspot.com Alice Backer

    Thanks for the link, Sokari.

  • Pingback: Barbados Free Press » Blog Archive » Barbados Death Boat - Senegal Connection - Global Voices Photos

  • Pingback: Caribbean Free Radio

  • http://www.ginnysthoughts.com Ginny

    Greetings, very interesting site, I visit http://www.seneweb.com quite a bit, however, as I don’t speak French, I have a hard time following the site. Need to learn French, I guess. Also, as I am blind and use a screen reader to read the computer which won’t read graphics/picutres, etc., I was not aware of the slide show. How sad! I enjoyed the comments, though, and thanks for translating them.

  • Kate

    It is worth checking out http://www.rewmi.com for interesting and sad news every day plus all the posters.

    recent news says that corrupt Wade has bought 14 SUVs for his deputies and a stretch limo for himself. He has also risen the prices of oil, rice, bread and milk making it even harder for the poor citizens of Dakar to get even one meal a day for themselves and their families.
    The reporter who wrote the story about the limo plus others who attempt to reveal the true corrupt nature of wade are all being arrested, imprisoned or put on trial.
    Meanwhile Wade has received prizes from the UN for supposedly helping development.
    I am in Senegal for research and can attest to the situation getting worse every day. More and more mothers and fathers cannot feed their children. On the TV and in the press they see glamourous pictures, images of white people with everything. We do have everything compared to them. It is no wonder when their Government does nothing to help them and illiteracy is at 60% and more than 80% of people live on less than a dollar a day that they want to risk life and limb to at least glimpse at something better.

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