Echoes of 1968 unrest in Senegal student protests

2018-06-03 09:59
(iStock)

(iStock)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

The student demonstrations that have rocked Senegal in recent weeks recall the short-lived but intense unrest which sprung out of the country's universities half a century ago, almost bringing down the government back in May 1968.

The spark this time was a fatality during a university protest on May 15 over the late payment of student grants.

Second-year student Mohamed Fallou Sene, 25, was killed as police quelled a protest at Gaston Berger University in the northern city of Saint-Louis.

His death sparked further protests near Cheikh Anta Diop University in the capital Dakar, while police also broke up demonstrations in the southern city of Ziguinchor.

As the unrest grew a higher education union began a strike in solidarity with the students before President Macky Sall called for an inquiry.

Sall, who is expected to stand for re-election next February, also announced in the aftermath of the protests that student grants will be raised.

However students at Sene's university were still on strike on Friday, demanding "justice" and for political heads to roll.

Back in 1968, the protests also began over the issue of grants and also led to the death of a student.

The demonstrations 50 years ago briefly threatened the administration of then president Leopold Sedar Senghor as students took to the streets, clashing with police and setting up barricades.

At a time when young people were protesting across the world, over issues such the Vietnam War and apartheid, students in Dakar accused Senghor, who took office in 1960 on independence from France, of being a "valet of imperialism".

After the student strike began on May 27, 1968, police moved in. One student died and several more were hurt, official records show.

But, far from growing out of the youth protests in France, the United States and elsewhere, "these events were sparked by political, economic and social crises within Senegal," says historian and former minister Abdoulaye Bathily.

Short-lived, but left a mark 

Workers then declared a strike on May 30 and for a time "the government was tottering," says historian Omar Gueye, as Senghor condemned what he saw as malign fallout from the student protests in Europe.

Foreign students were repatriated and Dakar University closed as unrest worsened - though the president could call on support of the army and influential Muslim religious leaders as well as French troops stationed at strategic points of the capital.

"Peasants came with rifles and arrows to defend Senghor and the country," recalled academic Ibrahima Wone.

Within three days the protest ebbed away, foreign students returned and exams went ahead in December.

Short-lived though Senegal's May 1968 unrest was, "it contributed to the development of democracy," says Mbaye Diack, who ran the national student union at the time.

By 1974, what had been a de-facto one-party state embraced a multi-party system, culminating in the arrival as president of Abdou Diouf, who succeeded Senghor in 1981.

Half a century later, "the university world is coming up against the same problems," hip-hop artist and researcher Youssoufa Sarr told a forum at the French Institute in Dakar last week.

"Students and activists blame Macky Sall for what the '68 students criticised Senghor for," he said.

* Sign up to News24's top Africa news in your inbox: SUBSCRIBE TO THE HELLO AFRICA NEWSLETTER

FOLLOW News24 Africa on Twitter and Facebook

Read more on:    senegal  |  west africa

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Inside News24

 
/News
Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.