Barack Obama’s supposed popularity among Africans has waned, to judge from coverage of his first visit to Dakar in Senegal’s press. The absurd and arrogant show of force by Obama’s security apparatus has transformed famously lively Dakar into ‘a dead city.’
Mister Obama’s Outing
There is an American proverb that says ‘we are all equal in the eyes of the lord.’Well, in the eyes of the lord, perhaps, but down here, the rest of us goorgoorlus [Dakaris] are a few rungs down the ladder from the ‘Yankees.’ And every time a US head of state comes to visit, they remind us of this. Today, on our own soil, there will be no freedom of movement for any of us. Every one of us will have to follow the security guidelines handed out by Obama’s security henchmen. Our poverty makes us pitiful, and whatever little largesse Obama hands out here will disappoint more than a few. When [President] Macky Sall visits the White House, the 623,323 inhabitants of Washington D.C. are not put out in the slightest. But here, more than 2 million souls will be told to behave themselves during Mister Obama’s outing. ‘God Help Senegal.'[In English]. We really need it.
– Samba Alaar
Yankee Paranoia at the Radisson. Actually, Yankee paranoia everywhere in ‘Suh-nuh-gawl.’ The insane security measures for the arrival of the president of the most powerful country in the world extend far beyond the Radisson, Almadies Point, and downtown Dakar. The Americans have conquered Suh-Nuh-Gawl’s sea and its sky-and also our telephone network. And now here they are, boxing us in, shutting down our streets, muddling our traffic and telling us where we can walk. They are cocky, so cocky that even the presidential palace, emblem of our national pride and sovereignty, is basically under the control of the Yankees.
More than sixty American secret service agents have invaded the palace, rummaging around in everything, taking command. Saying that they are reinforcing palace security, they have installed their own metal detectors. They watch everywhere-no person can escape their perspicacity. Even Ministers of the Senegalese Republic have had a foretaste of what life is going to be like when the Big Boss shows up: they themselves had to pass through the Americans’ metal detectors and body searches before their Monday cabinet meeting; the searches have continued; in other words, the security measures for Obama’s arrival were tested out on our most distinguished officials.
More than that, it seems that even Macky Sall’s personal bodyguards were disarmed by the Yankees. Our dear president will of course be allowed to keep his guards around him, but it is said that only two of them will be armed: his head of security and adjutant. All of the others will have only their bare hands to do their job.
We just have to remember that these security deviations are nothing new; they are part of the deal whenever an American president touches down somewhere, especially in a country like Suh-nuh-gawl. When Bush Junior visited Suh-nuh-gawl in 2004, they brought the same kind of paranoia. Man, these Yankees take comfort in controlling everything. If they could distribute their own breathing air while their president was visiting, they would definitely do it. With all the bother it is causing us Suh-nuh-gawlians, wouldn’t it have been better to just declare Obama’s 48-hour sojourn here a paid holiday? At least we wouldn’t have had to deal with so much tactlessness. Right?
The Dead City
Starting yesterday, the city of Dakar is locked down. Locked down by the police and the gendarmerie. Just about everything is forbidden in Dakar. Sure, it is easier to drive a car today, since traffic jams are basically nonexistent. But that is because since yesterday, it is impossible to park a car in downtown Dakar, or on any of the big avenues of the capital, particularly on the corniche and any of the roads leading to Almadies Point and Leopold Sedar Senghor Airport.
Downtown yesterday, numerous employees were obliged to return home, since they could not park their cars at work in areas around Independence Square, the presidential palace, and along Boulevard de la Republique all the way to the corniche. Police were deployed everywhere to force drivers to keep moving. At Independence Square yesterday, even pedestrians were prohibited from crossing the square. Coming from Ponty Avenue, one had to make a detour to get to Mohamed V avenue. All of the parks and fountains of Independence Square were being scrubbed and polished.
The streets near the airport were completely cleaned up, lanes and sidewalks repainted. Even Blaise Diagne Avenue was successfully cleaned up; everything that had obstructed it, especially around the Tilene market, was removed. Likewise, the corniche was cleaned up and decorated with little star-spangled-banners and five-pointed star [Senegalese] flags.
This new-look undertaking for Dakar-timed for Barack Obama’s visit-did not spare even stray mental patients. All were rounded up and swept away by the police. Likewise, the street children and other beggars who habitually decorate downtown Dakar were scraped up. Senegal’s capital felt like a dead city since yesterday. Thus is Obama’s visit. Commerce has slowed to a crawl, and the human masses which normally overrun downtown have vanished: you might have thought it was the day after Tabaski or a day during Magal [local holidays]. Since yesterday, we have lived in a shadow city, which will certainly be the case until the American president departs on Friday at noon.
26 Jun 2013