19. Sunugaal (Our Canoe)
Written & performed by Didier Awadi & Bouba Mendy
From the CD Sunugaal (Mr. Bongo, Senegal 2008)
Listen & watch via http://www.studiosankara.com/sunugal.swf



All your beautiful words
All your beautiful promises
We still wait for them
You promised me I would have a job
You promised me I would have food
You promised me I would have real work and a future
But so far – nothing

That’s why I’m leaving, that’s why I’m clearing out in this canoe
I swear! I can’t stay here one more second
Better to die than live in such conditions, in this hell
Come what may
I still prefer to die


About the song

In this song called Sunugaal (in Wolof, Our Canoe) (2006) the well known Senegalese rapper Didier Awadi refers to the growing number of African migrants who leave for Europe in small fishing boats from the Senegalese and Mauritanian coast.

He speaks from the position of a migrant who decided to ‘escape abroad’ because of the ‘miserable’ economic and political conditions in his country: unemployment, anxiety, lack of faith in the future, scandals, imprisonment of journalists and opposition politicians, bankrupt companies, frequent water and power cuts.

Awadi set the song to a slideshow, posted free of charge on his website, which shows photographs of migrants crammed in a small canoe on the open sea, arriving exhausted and in serious physical conditions at the Canary Islands, at the airport in Dakar after having been sent back from Spain and, finally, a graveyard.

Awadi establishes a very clear and direct relationship between politics, migration, and death. He blames political leaders for not guaranteeing adequate conditions of living, leading to migration and death, and who, as a consequence, should resign.’

Source: ‘To Skip a Step’: New Representation(s) of Migration, Success and Politics in Senegalese Rap and Theatre, by Christine Ludl, published in Stichproben. Wiener Zeitschrift für kritische Afrikastudien Nr. 14/2008, 8. Jg., 97-122 [2008] www.univie.ac.at/ecco/stichproben/Nr14_Ludl.pdf


On Migration and Senegal, 2006 – 2008

Sunugaal was made available as a download in 2006. The track was released on CD in 2008. What follows is a series of extracts tracing key moment in migration from Senegal to Spain between 2006 and 2008.


Overview One

Despite the strong belief held by many Africa analysts that the economic woes of Africa are rooted in its largely documented history of colonialism which culminated in a façade called ‘independence’ and the Cold War which institutionalised despotism, kleptocracy, and big-man politics, the Structural Adjustment Programmes [SAPs] imposed by the World Bank and IMF have made it impossible for African countries to meet the basic needs of their people.

Introduced in the 1970s to galvanise the economies of African countries following the decline in the prices of agricultural products, SAPs came with tough conditions such as wage freezes, the elimination of price controls and the lifting of trade barriers. Instead of encouraging economic development, SAPS created a new phenomenon of heavily indebted poor countries [HIPC] which could not meet the basic needs of their people.

In its June 2006 edition The Economist posited that ‘rich countries have been generous lately, with extra aid and debt relief, giving many struggling economies a breath of fresh air. By the end of last year, 29 countries, 25 of them in Africa, had had their debt erased…’ The magazine went on to wonder ‘…Africa, often dubbed the hopeless continent, is finally taking off’. For once, a magazine that has carelessly dubbed Africa as a ‘hopeless continent’ has conceded that ‘Africa itself deserves the credit for the upswing of its economy last year’.

Like most of its counterparts in the international media, what The Economist failed to acknowledge is that the dividends of the so called debt relief are easily drowned by one phenomenon – the international trade policies of the ‘generous’ industrial nations it was talking about.

In March 2005, the British government, which has been in the forefront of the highly indebted poor countries initiative [HIPC], published a detailed report of the £1.7 billion it gave to agricultural companies it subsidies. At the same time, the US – though planning to reduce its subsidies to American farmers by 5 per cent – gave about $9 billion.

How on earth can African farmers compete with their European and American counterparts on the world food market? Would African governments whose national budgets are sometimes smaller than the subsidies Western farmers receive be able to subsidise their farmers to ‘even the score’? They will have to face incessant unrest at home while the rest of their citizens ‘hit the road’ or set off for European coasts.’

Source: Europe, the Promised Land for Africa’s Unemployed, by Tope Akninwande, published in From the Slave Trade to ‘free’ Trade, by Patrick Burnett, Firoze Madatally, Manji, Firoze Manji, Published by Fahamu, 2007


Overview Two

Although one of the region’s more stable countries, Senegal remains a low income, food-deficit nation with an estimated population of 11.6 million. In 2006, Senegal moved up one place on the UNDP Human Development Index and now ranks 156th out of 177 countries.

Malnutrition levels are persistently high, (16.4 percent chronic malnutrition in children under the age of five) partly due to poor dietary habits, poor sanitation, and low levels of literacy and nutritional awareness among women. Chronic malnutrition is twice as high in rural than in urban areas. The prevalence of iron deficiency at levels over 70 percent in women and children under 5 years is of serious concern. Only 26.3 percent of rural households have access to iodised salt, which is essential for the prevention of goitre.

The law provides for free education and government policy declares education to be compulsory for children ages 6 to 16. However, many children do not attend school due to lack of resources or available facilities. Access to education remains a concern particularly in the regions of Kaolack and Fatick, where the gross enrolment rates (GER) remain well below the national average. In the 2005-2006 academic year, more girls than boys were enrolled in primary school for the first time ever. However, high female illiteracy rates (44 percent) and school drop out rates of 30 percent affect mostly rural girls in vulnerable areas.

Due to subsistence agricultural practices, environmental damage and recurring natural disasters such as the 2004 locust invasion, sustainable food security for the poorest and most vulnerable is not yet an achievable goal. Around 50 percent of households are affected by poverty and devote up to 48 percent of household expenditures on food. Poverty levels are particularly acute in rural areas, where access to basic social services, such as health and education, is inadequate.

According to a recent WFP vulnerability analysis and mapping (VAM) study, 46 percent of households in Senegal are vulnerable to food insecurity, with 20 percent considered as highly vulnerable. The post-conflict region of Casamance is particularly vulnerable, with poverty rates among the highest in the country and more than 49 percent of households considered as vulnerable to food insecurity.

While the Peace Agreement signed in 2004 by the Government of Senegal and the separatist movement MFDC formally ended two decades of separatist fighting in the Casamance, the situation in the region remains tense with sporadic violence causing continued displacement. There are currently an estimated 6,500 Senegalese refugees in The Gambia and around 1,200 are still displaced within the Casamance region, following conflict in Fogny.

Currently, a number of refugees who sought shelter in Guinea-Bissau and internally displaced persons (IDPs) sheltering in the region of Ziguinchor are returning to their villages in Casamance on the Guinea-Bissau border. In areas where no assistance is available to returnees, their sustainable reintegration continues to be hampered by limited social infrastructure and services and the presence of mines that prevents them from resuming farming.’

Source: United Nations World Food Programme – Senegal


January 2006

Fifty two Senegalese migrants celebrate new years day on a boat they boarded on Christmas Eve. They are on their way to new lives in Western Europe, which they will enter by way of the Canary Isles.


April 2006

The Associated Press reports, on April Fool’s Day, that the boat is discovered by a fisherman off the coast of Barbados, and contains the bodies of eleven men.

Source: http://timelines.ws/countries/SENEGAL.HTML


June 2006

From The Yale Globalist: ‘Beginning in June 2006 and continuing into October, repatriated immigrants in Senegal have held protests in the Senegalese cities of Dakar and Mbour.’


July 2006

From The Yale Globalist: ‘[d ]elegates from 58 countries in Europe and Africa convened in Morocco to develop strategies for combating illegal immigration. Though the discussions were largely uncreative, focusing on increased border patrolling in the short-term and economic development in Africa as a long-term method of slowing migration, collaboration between countries, both African and European, was a new and positive development.’


September 2006

The Senegalese government agrees to repatriate hundreds of illegal Senegalese migrants from Spain. It also announces its collaboration with Spain on a scheme that will guarantee migrants work permits and a passage to Spain. The permits will last a year and can be renewed. If they are renewed, workers can send for their immediate families.


October 2006

Senegal: Anti repatriation demonstrations continue. From The Yale Globalist:
A particularly vocal demonstration took place on October 6 after 2,000 hopeful immigrants were repatriated in the span of three weeks. Protesters told the Senegalese newspaper Le Matin that the repatriated received nothing but a sandwich and bus fare from the government when they returned.


December 2006

Former Prime Minister of Senegal, Moustapha Niasse, tells The Yale Globalist, ‘When a person does not have access to the economy, to healthcare, and to the human services that he needs to survive, how can we expect him to stay? The pressures are too great.

Source: Immigration’s Siren Song – Immigration Out of Africa Unites and Divides Two Continents, by Elizabeth Dickinson & Pete Martin, The Yale Globalist, 8 December 2006 http://tyglobalist.org/index.php/20061208112/Focus/Immigration-s-Siren-Song.html


May 2007

From the Inter Press Service: ‘A new wave of African immigrants has left a number of victims behind on the route to Spain’s Canary Islands, where 1,300 undocumented immigrants have arrived in the last five days.

The attempt to make it to Spain claimed the lives of 28 migrants, whose bodies were found on the coasts of the Western Sahara, 40 km north of Laâyoune. The injured are still being counted.

Erik Denabuena made the crossing from Senegal to Spain when he was 17 and has lived in Spain for five years. In an interview with IPS he said: ‘I came because here you can get a much better job for much more pay than the work we did as children in my country, either because our parents sent us out to work, or to earn ourselves a few cents.’

Asked about the risk involved Denabuena said: ‘Everyone knows. But what is worse, to take that risk, or to live a life that is very similar to death?’

The IPS report also featured an interview with Spain’s Secretary of State for Immigration and Emigration Consuelo Rumi: ‘migration pressures will continue to exist as long as the causes are in place – that is, the appalling living conditions on the African continent.’ That is why, she added, in addition to beefing up controls and enforcing the law, Spain is committed to supporting and contributing to the sustainable development of African countries, ‘and is acting on it, and pushing the European Union as a whole to do so as well.’ Spain will boost its official development aid to poor countries from 0.27 percent of gross domestic product in 2006 to 0.35 percent this year, with the aim of further increasing it to 0.50 percent in 2008. Most of the increase will go to sub-Saharan Africa.’

Source: Migration-Spain: ‘What Is Worse, the Risk or a Life Similar to Death?’, by Tito Drago, Inter Press Service May 15 2007,


July 2007

Spanish Secretary of State for immigration Consuelo Rumí announces that agreements for the repatriation of unaccompanied minors have been reached with Senegal, Morocco and Romania.


August 2007

Fatou Faye of Dakar is one of 72 Senegalese workers who arrive in Spain. Fatou and her colleagues are the first beneficiaries of a scheme set up by the Senegalese and Spanish governments that will enable Senegalese workers to obtain work permits by which they can legally gain employment in Spain. Ironically, the plane on which Faye arrived had just returned a group of illegal immigrants from Spain to Dakar.’

Several companies are in the process of hiring people in Dakar to come to work in Spain for a year, potentially more. Those companies include McDonald’s; Carrefour, a French retailer; and Vips, a Spanish convenience store chain. ‘It’s advanced thinking in terms of migration policy,’ Peter Sutherland, the United Nations special representative for migration, said in a telephone interview. ‘It’s trailblazing.’

Supporters of the programme say they are under no illusion that it will fix Europe’s migration problem. ‘When you measure the volume of people we can hire against the needs of their countries, it’s a drop in the ocean,’ said Miguel Ángel García, head of human resources for Vips, which has hired 25 people from Senegal and is in the process of hiring 40 more. ‘But we just have to keep working, drop by drop.’

A surge in sub-Saharan migration last year to the Canary Islands, a Spanish possession that many Africans try to use as a gateway to Europe, prompted Spain to toughen its stance on immigration and, along with the rest of Europe, extend the cordon around its shores with international patrols.

This year, the number of arrivals has fallen steeply: about 6,000 migrants landed in the Canaries in the first seven months, compared to 13,000 in the same period of 2006. Spanish officials and emergency workers based in the Canaries attributed the decline to better maritime surveillance and cooperation from countries like Senegal, as well as rougher seas.’

Source: To Curb Illegal Migration, Spain Offers a Legal Route, by Victoria Burnett, The New York Times, August 11 2008


The regional council of Tenerife and the government of Senegal will sign a collaboration protocol in December to advance the production of biofuels in the African country. The initiative is part of an attempt to alleviate poverty in the rural areas of Senegal, and thus to help reduce migration flows. Tenerife is a major arrival point for clandestine migrants from the country.

In light of the technology and knowledge transfer accord, the island of Tenerife is committed to establishing a laboratory in Senegal that will develop oil-bearing plants adapted to the region and that can be used for the production of biodiesel. A team of Senegalese scientists and technicians will be invited to study in Tenerife to acquire the skills needed to manage research projects on in vitro plant breeding and to run the lab.

Revitalising the land

The project is part of the Spanish authorities’ programme to help the Senegalese government to establish agricultural and livestock projects that can prevent rural populations from migrating. Being labour-intensive, bioenergy projects generate employment and wealth amongst rural communities. This ensures the push-factors leading to migration are tackled at the very source. Biofuels can contribute to relieving two waves typical of this exodus: poverty-driven internal migration from rural areas to the cities, and the poverty encountered there by unskilled workers who then decide to migrate further, to the EU.

Biofuels offer farmers a historic opportunity to strengthen their livelihoods and to revitalise rural economies, whereas jobs in non-farming sectors – in biomass logistics, science, technology and trade – become available as well. Between 70 and 80% of the Senegalese labour population is currently employed in agriculture. Its reliance on commodities like cotton have pushed millions into poverty, with subsidies and trade barriers in the U.S. and the EU taking much of the blame. Biofuels allow farmers to diversify their crops and to enter a new, global market. Demand for the green fuels is expected to keep growing over the coming decades, and a country like Senegal can tap its comparative advantages: abundant land, labour and suitable agroclimatic conditions for a range of efficient energy crops.’

Source: Spain and Senegal to cooperate on biofuels as way to curb illegal migration. Posted by Biopact team August 24 2007


October 2007

A Senegalese walks past a bus in Dakar, featuring an advertising campaign against clandestine immigration to Spain. Spain and the International Organization of Migration launched a million-euro (1.4 million-dollar) media campaign in September to dissuade people from taking the risk with broadcast spots about what happens to many who try to reach Europe and their grieving families.

[…] Still, Senegal remains a critical transit point: more than 80 percent of those heading for Spain pass through this West African country. For Senegalese store owner Modi Dia, however, the best solution to illegal immigration is to improve the lot of poor Africans:‘What matters is to take action. It is useless to just say clandestine migration is not good,’ said Dia, in his mid-20s, who was repatriated to Senegal after making it to Spain. Today, he runs a small household electronics shop in the Dakar suburbs. ‘The advertisements say illegal immigration doesn’t pay. He added. ‘But neither does staying at home.’

Source: Senegalese wary of Spain’s anti-immigration campaign, AFP, 17 Oct 2007


November 2007

Spain and Senegal reached an agreement on 9 November 2007 which will grant an estimated 2,700 work permits for Senegalese workers seeking jobs in Spain. The remaining 700 will be earmarked for agricultural work, mainly in strawberry farming. Senegal and the European Union have been working closely in containing illegal immigration, led by sea patrols by the European border agency, Frontex.

The efforts have resulted in a dramatic drop in arrivals to the Canary Islands, the traditional destination for illegal immigrants. More than 31,200 illegal immigrants arrived in the Canaries in 2006, over triple the previous annual record. Only 8,200 have arrived so far in 2007.

Source: http://www.workpermit.com/news/2007-11-12/spain/2700-spanish-work-permits-senegalese-migrants.htm


April 2008

The Canaries are fertile ground for anti-immigrant sentiments. Speaking at a rally in the Canaries on February 27, Mariano Rajoy, leader of Spain’s conservative Popular Party, told supporters that ‘the immigrants … must commit themselves to adopting Spanish customs. I understand that there are other countries where there is polygamy. But not here, and it is not enough to say that they must follow the law.’ Rajoy advocates an ‘assimilation contract’ — a document that would bind immigrants to culturally integrate into Spanish society.

This commitment to ‘Spanish customs’ has become a key theme in the Popular Party’s challenge to the Socialist government. The message is problematic at a time when regional and separatist movements are undermining any monolithic view of Spanish identity.

A commentator in the Socialist-friendly newspaper El País sarcastically suggested that Spain would be better off if Muslim immigrants retained their traditional prohibition on alcohol rather than adopt the botellón, the often raucous, open-air style of drinking now popular with Spanish youth. Until recent decades, poor Spaniards emigrated to more developed economies in Northern Europe or the Southern Cone of Latin America in search of work.’

Source: Spain to Senegal: Stay Home, by Adrián Bleifuss Prados, In These Times, 3 April 2008


September 2008

Dakar – Illegal migration continues, but is hard to track because most migrants enter a country legally, but then overstay their visas, according to the 2008 International Migration Outlook released by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). ‘It is difficult to reduce unauthorised migration through border control measures alone,’ the study notes, ‘When there exist genuine labour needs and employers have limited means for recruiting abroad, legal entry, followed by job search and overstay, seems to be one way used in practice to match up supply and demand.’

[…] Spain signed an agreement with Senegal in March 2007 to recruit Senegalese workers on temporary visas to work in Spain’s fishing and farming sectors. Thus far, about 500 Senegalese have advanced through the programme, with an additional 2,700 expected to participate in 2008, according to Senegal’s youth ministry. […] But Dakar-based sociologist and migrant expert, Cheikh Oumar Ba, says the programme is not enough to discourage illegal migration ‘Candidate selection is not done openly, and is open to corruption. Pregnant women are being recruited for agricultural positions. Qualified people tire of waiting for their chance and will resort to illegal migration.’

With rising unemployment rates, Spain’s economy has practically stopped growing, verses its near four percent-growth last year, according to the Spanish government. The European Commission has predicted a recession in Germany, England and Spain next year.

[…] Mamadou Mignone Diouf with the Dakar-based Consortium of Non-Profit Organisations for Development said more jobs in Europe will simply increase the risk of abuse if migrant workers’ rights are not protected. […] ‘Europe has always had a hypocritical migration policy. Europe preaches the global village, but it really does not want Africa to be a part of this village, only to come and staff its companies, harvest its agriculture and take the low-skill jobs Europeans do not want. But these workers have awful work conditions. More jobs will just mean more of the same.’

OECD concludes there is a general reluctance by government officials to admit their low-skill labour needs, and to accept that migration may be the answer. ‘Whether this reluctance will persist in the presence of growing labour needs remains to be seen.’

Source: West Africa: Policy overhaul needed to halt illegal migration IRIN/ UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 10 September 2008 http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/48ce1d62c.html


October 2008

The government of Spain concluded readmission agreements for unaccompanied children with both Senegal and Morocco in late 2006 and early 2007, followed by bilateral meetings with both countries. The agreement with Morocco is pending ratification at the time of writing, while the one with Senegal came into force in July 2008.

Both agreements include general references to international legal obligations and the child’s best interests, but fail to specify safeguards and guarantees to this effect before, during, and after a child’s repatriation. In both cases, a committee of government representatives is to oversee the agreements’ implementation.

The bilateral agreement with Senegal obliges the two countries to exchange information about an unaccompanied child and to trace the child’s family within a very short timeframe: Spain agrees to inform Senegal of the presence of an unaccompanied child within 10 days; Senegal is then required to trace the child’s family and to issue documents confirming the child’s identity within 20 days. Such tight deadlines raise questions as to what extent authorities on both sides will be able to assess sufficiently the circumstances behind the child’s departure and the situation awaiting the child upon return.’

Source: Returns at Any Cost: Spain’s Push for Repatriations. Bilateral Readmission Agreements Lack Safeguards and Transparency, Human Rights Watch, 17 October 2008 http://www.hrw.org/en/node/75594/section/3


November 2008


An EU-funded information campaign in Senegal, aimed at raising awareness of the dangers of irregular migration in order to prevent the many tragedies befalling irregular migrants, is today being extended to the southern Casamance region.

The campaign, which kicks off in the department of Vélingara, uses national and regional radio and television to get awareness messages out to an estimated 100,000 persons living in Casamance and in neighbouring Gambia and Guinea-Bissau. A local organisation, the Association Internationale pour Médina-Marty (AIMM), is participating in the EU-sponsored campaign.

A road-show featuring ‘Beyond the Dreams’, a documentary on the life of young Senegalese who live as undocumented migrants in Europe, is to travel next week to towns and villages affected by high rates of emigration in order to raise awareness of ‘some the realities of daily life as undocumented migrants in Europe,’ according to the campaigners. Needless to say, the film only focuses on the problems illegal migrants can face in Europe.

The month-long campaign, which also seeks to inform potential migrants of the few, but existing, legal methods of migration, falls within a programme of inter-regional dialogue between the European Union (EU), North and sub-Saharan Africa.

Casamance, the southern part of Senegal which has suffered from a low-scale civil war for decades, has experienced over the past years a marked increase in the number of people embarking on rickety boats for a perilous 1,000 mile sea journey towards the Canary Islands, with many perishing at sea.

The Casamance region already regularly produces streams of refugees pouring into The Gambia and Guinea-Bissau when fighting between Casamance independence rebels and Senegalese troops hits the area.’

Source: Anti-migration campaigns hit South Senegal, by afrol staff writers, 21 November 2008 http://www.afrol.com/articles/31772



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