A prominent Dakar avenue, formerly named after a French colonial figure, Faidherbe, in West Africa, was officially renamed on Sunday in honour of President Macky Sall of Senegal. The renaming ceremony was marked with a significant presence of dignitaries and key political figures, including the Prime Minister, Amadou Ba, who is the candidate of President Sall’s coalition for the 2024 presidential election.
The decision to rename this iconic street was taken in mid-July, aiming to pay tribute to President Sall for his remarkable contributions as an “illustrious statesman, leader, and outstanding builder.” This initiative was introduced by Alioune Ndoye, the Mayor of the Dakar-Plateau district, who also serves as the Minister for the Environment.
Macky Sall was initially elected in 2012 for a seven-year term, and he secured re-election in 2019 for an additional five years. However, on July 3, he announced his decision not to seek another term in the upcoming presidential election scheduled for February 2024. This announcement relieved the political climate in Senegal, which had been marked by tensions in the wake of his earlier intentions.
Ongoing political tensions in Senegal have been exacerbated by the detention of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko since the end of July. Sonko, who is currently on a “hunger strike,” has been admitted to intensive care in a Dakar hospital. Additionally, an executive from his party, Amadou Ba, unrelated to the Prime Minister, was arrested on Friday. His lawyer, Ciré Clédor Ly, reported that he remains in the custody of the research section of law enforcement, with no official reasons for his arrest provided thus far.
The issue of renaming streets with references to France’s colonial history has been a subject of current discussion in Senegal. In September 2020, the Senegalese city of Saint-Louis, which was the first French settlement established south of the Sahara in the 17th century, renamed Place Faidherbe to give it a local name. Louis Léon César Faidherbe (1818-1889) is celebrated in France for his military achievements during the 1870-1871 war, where he is credited with saving the northern part of the country from Prussian invasion.
In contrast, Senegalese perspectives on Faidherbe are rooted in his role as a key figure in advancing French colonialism during the 1850s and 1860s. He is held accountable for violent colonial campaigns, loss of life, and the destruction of villages. The renaming of these historical references reflects an ongoing discourse on Senegal’s colonial past and its contemporary significance.