Senegalese rapper Omar Toure AKA Thiat was arrested on Monday and questioned about a speech he gave criticizing president Abdoulaye Wade’s plan to run for a third term. Dozens of his fans protested. He was released today without being charged.
The emcee, a member of the popular Keur Gui group, spoke at an opposition rally in Dakar on Saturday, after political demonstrations were banned last week. In January, the activist started the “Enough is Enough” or “Fed Up” movement, urging young people to register to vote and end Wade’s 11-year rule.
Members of the opposition say that Toure’s arrest is part of a program of bullying in the lead up to the national elections. Last month, riots broke out in Dakar in reaction Wade’s proposed changes to the constitution, changes that would reduce the percentage of votes needed to win the presidential election. Wade has scrapped the plan in the face of public outcry, but he will still seek a third term next year, though the opposition says this would be unconstitutional.
Toure’s arrest appears to be part of a larger crackdown on free speech. Senegal has been touted as a model of African democracy in a troubled region, but outspoken rappers have faced harassment in recent years and radio stations have been silenced. Many Senegalese emcees have complained of not being able to get radio or TV exposure because of their critical songs.
Photo: Thiat (in hat) with supporters, credit: SEYLLOU/AFP/Getty Images