Sunday, July 22, 2012

Happy 52nd Independence Day, Senegal!

April 4, 2012 was the 52nd Independence Day in Senegal.  It was particularly exciting this year because of how close it was to the presidential election in which the (old- in terms of "used to be" and "age") president, Abdoulaye Wade, was soundly defeated by Macky Sall.  The celebration on the Place de l'Independence was quite a bit smaller than past years apparently because Macky wanted to start his implementation of frugal fiscal policies immediately, so only military were involved in the celebration, no civilians (or not many anyway).  I live right next to the presidential palace and just a couple blocks from the Place de l'Independence, so I was close to all the action and celebrations. 

Even Google celebrated Senegal's Independence Day - they created this image for their homepage on April 4!

The evening of April 3rd, a group of people marched to the palace to the beat of the military percussion and to the light of torches held by other military personnel on foot and on horseback.  When they reached the palace, they were warmly welcomed by Macky waving his arms (for a few seconds) all on his balcony.   

I woke up in time on April 4th to film the raising of the flag on the palace.  A new flag was put on the palace when Macky moved into the palace on April 2nd.  

A little after 9am I walked down to the Place de l'Independence where the big celebration was going to happen.  There were representatives from every military branch in Senegal and lots of people there to watch the celebration - as well as lots of media people to film and photograph it all!  Soon after getting there, I ran into my friend Amadou (who is the older brother of my good friend, Seynabou Ndiaye [aka Yassay], from Kayemor), so we spent the morning walking around trying to find the best place to see everything. 

Amadou took these photos of me with some military guys.  They were more than happy to pose for the photo.  

Soon after Amadou and I had worked our way to the opposite side of the Place de l'Independence from where the tents were all set up, Macky made his entrance to the celebration.  He was led by a truck full of media people facing backward filming/photographing him.  I wasn't expecting his entrance, so I didn't get very good photos of him (nor a video).

Once Macky had made his way around the Place de l'Independence, there was a military ceremony of some sort (we couldn't really hear what was being said), though we could see on the big tv screen that medals were given to some people.

There were lots of people watching the ceremony, though it certainly wasn't packed, which was nice.

 As is typical with any crowd (large or small), vendors came to sell merchandise of all sorts.

There were secret-service-looking people present, in addition to all the policemen.

The big parade started with flags from many different countries, and then all the branches of the military marched around the Place de l'Independence.

Dakar is growing - even downtown near the Place de l'Independence where things are already crowded.
Amadou happened to see his nephew, Moussa, marching in the parade, so we tracked him down once they had stopped marching to say hi.
Macky left the ceremony inside his limo this time, which was probably safer since these military guys (including Moussa!) were more interested in watching him go than looking out for dangerous individuals in the crowd.  :)