ABIDJAN (AFP) — Reggae star Tiken Jah Fakoly said Saturday he had "no regrets" after being barred from entering Senegal following criticism of President Abdoulaye Wade.
"I gave my opinion as an African citizen," the Ivorian singer told AFP. "I have always said what I think about the news and I told myself that I can do the same thing in Senegal."
He criticised Wade during a press conference in Dakar and afterward at a concert on Wednesday, inviting the president to leave office for the good of his country.
Senegal's interior ministry said Thursday evening that he was "persona non grata in Senegal" for his "insolent and discourteous" remarks and would be barred from entering the country.
"There are no regrets," the singer said. "I don't regret it at all because I said what all Senegalese say every day. Opposition members say it every day, young rappers say it, everybody says it."
The Senegalese government faced what was seen as the country's most violent protests since the late 1980s last month.
Local media said the unrest was an expression of disillusionment by the majority of Senegalese hard pressed for the most basic needs, while the country invests in new highways and five-star hotels ahead of a major summit of Islamic nations it is set to host in March.
Senegal's interior minister sought to justify the decision taken by the government.
"Someone cannot come to a country and give orders to a president," Ousmane Ngom said, cited by Senegal's APS news agency.
"We could have taken draconian measures, but we did not do that," he added.
The singer said he learned from the radio about the Senegalese government's decision to bar him, adding that he was both "surprised" and "disappointed" at the move.
"I think that President Wade is maybe not necessarily up to date on it and that the interior minister took the decision," he said.
He said that in Africa, "there are many ministers who seek to please the president".
"I hope that President Wade will again show proof of wisdom so that the interior minister reverses the decision," the singer said.
Wade had been "an example" for young Africans in the past for "freedom of expression and multi-party systems", said Fakoly.
In 2000, Wade, then an opposition figure for two decades in Senegal, swept to power in elections, the first time power slipped from the Socialist Party's 40-year rule.
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