'My brother died fighting for Senegal’s youth'

Senegal has been experiencing what many say is the worst civil unrest in more than a decade. Thousands of young people took to the streets earlier this month, in anti-government protests. The West African nation is usually seen as a model of democracy but the country’s economy has suffered during the pandemic. BBC West Africa Correspondent Ben Hunte reports from Dakar on why young people have had enough. Producer: Naomi Scherbel-Bell Camera and editing: Ayo Bello

Video Transcript

- Most of the young people will get radicalized. They will take rifles to make change.

- Corruption, that's the reality here.


- Most of my friends don't have a job.


BEN HUNTE: Senegal has been experiencing some of the country's worst unrest in nearly a decade. Over two weeks, thousands of young people took to the streets. The protests kicked off after the arrest of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko. He was accused of rape. But some people are worried that the case is an attempt by President Macky Sall to silence the opposition, something the government denies.

The protests ended earlier this month, but the tensions remain. Amnesty International says 12 protesters died. One of them was Cheikh Wade, a 32-year-old tailor who was shot and killed at the protests. We're seeing his brother's sewing machine here. So this is where his brother would make clothes to then sell them. [SPEAKING FRENCH]


BEN HUNTE: What actually happened on that day, how was he killed?


BEN HUNTE: Senegal is seen as a beacon of democracy and stability in Africa, and the economy here has grown in recent years. But young people say that wealth is not being shared with them, and they've had enough. This hip-hop center was built to provide young people here with opportunities.


FOU MALADE: (RAPPING) We have delinquents. We have prostitution. We have robberies. We have many, many kind of bad things. I'm very scared for young people, because when actual political leaders or the future political leaders still lie to the people, when they do not respect what they promise to the people, most of them young people will get radicalized. They will take rifles to make change.

- The young don't have opportunity. They don't feel part of the system. Yes, I'm really, really, really afraid.

BEN HUNTE: From your friends, your friends that you see here, are they in work? Do they have jobs?

- No, most of my friends don't have jobs. They don't have anything to do. So they turn to crime and other problems like that. (SINGING)

BEN HUNTE: This song, which she wrote herself, is about the loss of hope and feeling undervalued. It sums up how a lot of her generation feels.