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The Vocation to Serve

This weekend I responded with pleasure to the invitation of my friend Babacar Diop, leader of the Fds, who presented at the Museum of Civilizations his new book, The vocation to serve (Hermann / Kala). Faithful to his choice to articulate a political thought before any action on the ground, Babacar Diop shares in this book some of his reflections on politics, the conquest of power, the exercise of the State, the role of a party, the functions of a militant … He also opens his library of references and highlights historical figures who have marked his itinerary as an activist, intellectual and public official.

In The vocation to serve, Babacar Diop recalls from the first pages his desire to build utopias that shed light on public action. Politics is not only material data, nor is it only strategy, tactics and manoeuvres, it has a strong spiritual function which is to convey an imaginary of rupture and transformation as well as hope. What are people, especially the most precarious, at a given moment in the history of a nation and what do they want to become? What do they aspire to? What is their dream of social advancement and the quest for dignity? Proposing a horizon, a path and a method is also the role of the political leader in his demand to build a transformative utopia.

The path to be of help and of hope for people cannot be an assortment of scoops, an expression of ego or a combination of excesses. We must morally and spiritually arm the vulnerable masses to prepare for the eruption of the transformative moment. Babacar Diop writes about this: “In truth, there is no revolutionary process without critical consciousness.” It is therefore through knowledge, the unbridled and relentless quest for knowledge and its sanctification that we aspire to radically change a society, especially when it is plagued by inequalities and various moral impasses.

In the text, a sum of stories, many of which were written in prison – we can see the parallel with Gramsci‘s famous prison notebooks -, the author invites us to take his movement seriously by insisting that it will be the majority in the country and will be fit to govern. This point is very interesting insofar as the author rejects the label of activist and agitator of causes, he is a politician anxious to come to power and to implement his program. He cites certain great moments of popular fervour called « movements in squares », notably at Tahrir Square, at Bardo Square, at Puerta del Sol. He is certainly inspired by it, but immediately recalls that the Fds take up all these struggles in their memory but think that the transformation of street action will take place within institutions, at the heart of power.

The vocation to serve is a key theme of the mayor of Thiès since his irruption in the political field, first in the Socialist Party then at the head of a new political formation. On this subject, the author warns the reader at the beginning of the book. He insists on the fact that Fds-Les Guelewars is a party of combat and government. A radical movement in approach but never promoter of disorder and a responsible movement in taking into account the requirements of public management. The themes it takes up, in connection with the desire to build a new type of Senegalese socialism and in coherence with the new realities of the century, range from a new democratic spring to ecology, passing through the decommodification of the world and the unity of African progressives around new issues of political and social struggle.

Babacar Diop‘s book is also full of political and intellectual references whose eclecticism informs about the culture of the man and his scholarship. It is the book of a reader whose sourced borrowings cross the material. In turn we come across the writings of Senghor, Mamadou Dia, Djibril Samb, the attitudes in historical moments of Abraham Lincoln, of OumarIbn Abdel-Aziz, the radical moral positions of Sembène or the itinerary of Thierno Souleymane Baal. These characters have inspired an ambitious and demanding text on the Republic, the State, politics, the left and the values that politics should elevate to the forefront: righteousness, integrity, complexity, a sense of history and fate. Finally, it is a book that calls for a change in the deep nature of politics in Senegal; on the need to move from Nguur (power) which can mean power and enjoyment to Denkane (mandate) which can be translated as an act of trust. In short, politics as a vocation to serve.

By Hamidou ANNE / hamidou.anne@lequotidien.sn

  • Translation by Ndey T. SOSSEH / Serigne S. DIAGNE

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