The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Senegal:
A Boy Drowns Escaping Poverty

Jan 18, 2021

Translated from Le Pouvoir aux Travailleurs (Power to the Workers), magazine of the revolutionary workers’ group Union Africaine des Travailleurs Communistes Internationalistes (Internationalist Communist African Workers’ Union) active in Africa and France.

In November a 14-year-old teenager from Senegal who dreamed of becoming a professional soccer player in Europe died while trying to cross the Atlantic aboard a pirogue, a small boat. His death was highly emotional for people there. He joins the long list of migrant castaways. In one week alone recently, 480 people lost their lives at sea trying to reach Spain on these boats.

This child’s story shocked people all the more because the government of Senegal pressed criminal charges against his father, supposedly to convince other parents not to “encourage” their children to emigrate illegally. A two-year prison sentence was requested for him for “manslaughter and complicity in smuggling migrants.” Two other fathers were arrested for “endangering the lives of others,” although their sons were saved. In December they were found guilty and sentenced to jail time.

For years, the government has proclaimed that it wants to help Senegalese youth to live and work in Senegal, repeating this message nonstop through the media and in schools and mosques. But what has it done concretely so that young people are not tempted to risk their lives on these makeshift boats? Did the government create enough jobs for them? To the contrary: most of these young people blame the government for hunting down those who try to get by through selling merchandise on the street. They are fed up with the moralizing and accusatory speeches of the authorities. They prefer trying their luck under other skies rather than dying slowly under the weight of extreme poverty.

This poverty is the result of the capitalist system, which throws more and more people into destitution while a minority of parasites and exploiters accumulate fortunes. The Senegalese government is a cog in the gear of this inhuman system, like all other governments. The leaders of these governments are the ones who should be fought for “endangering the lives of others!”