Youssou N'Dour announces Senegal presidential bid

Youssou N'Dour Youssou N'Dour has emerged as a prominent critic of President Abdoulaye Wade in recent months

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Musician Youssou N'Dour has announced he is running in February's presidential elections in Senegal.

"I have listened... and I am responding favourably," Mr N'Dour said on his own TV network, referring to requests that he put himself forward, AFP reports.

Mr N'Dour will run against incumbent Abdoulaye Wade, who is seeking a controversial third term.

Mr Wade's bid and changes he proposed to the constitution have prompted widespread unrest in recent months.

Senegal is seen as one of the most democratic and stable countries in West Africa - it is the only country in the region never to have experienced a military coup.

However, tension is rising ahead of the election and one prominent politician has been charged with murder.

Mr N'Dour said of his candidacy: "It is a supreme patriotic duty.

"It's true, I haven't pursued higher education, but the presidency is a function and not a job.

"I have proved my competence, commitment, rigour and efficiency time and time again. I have studied at the school of the world. Travel teaches as much as books," he added.

Analysis

Youssou N'Dour's candidacy is not much of a surprise - there has been much speculation since he announced he was going to enter politics. He engaged in domestic politics on a number of occasions last year, denouncing President Abdoulaye Wade's attempt to suppress a run-off vote in the presidential elections. He participated in some opposition rallies against Mr Wade's candidacy for a third term.

Mr N'Dour is extremely popular in Senegal, but for his music. Can he now turn hundreds of thousands of fans into voters? His radio and TV networks will be of great help but it is not that easy. Once very close to President Wade - he even used to sing for him - the two men fell out in late 2005.

With barely any school education, Mr N'Dour has become a successful entrepreneur and some critics say he stopped backing President Wade when he figured his businesses would not benefit from the relationship any more. Mr N'Dour may not succeed in the election next month, but he may well manage to force a second round.

Election controversy

Proposals made last June by Mr Wade to change the constitution sparked the most violent protests of his 11-year tenure.

Mr Wade had wanted to reduce the proportion of votes needed to win a presidential election, and so avoid a run-off - from more than 50% to 25%.

He had also wanted to create an elected post of vice-president, which many suspected was meant for his son Karim.

Many opposition activists claim Mr Wade's bid for a third term is unconstitutional.

He has been president since 2000 when he won elections, ending 40 years of rule by the Socialist Party.

Mr N'Dour has emerged as a prominent opposition figure in recent months.

He has also long been involved in humanitarian causes, being a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef). Last year he also criticised African leaders over their response to the famine in Somalia.

Mr N'Dour is renowned around the world for his fusion of traditional Senegalese music with salsa, jazz and hip-hop.

His 1994 duet with Neneh Cherry, Seven Seconds, was a worldwide hit and won a Grammy nomination.

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