Members of one of Philadelphia’s expatriate communities were waiting anxiously Monday for results of Sunday’s election in their home country. In a West Philly restaurant at lunchtime, Senegalese patrons were expecting a planned announcement from the sitting president.
“I didn’t sleep at all because usually they still [are counting] all the election [returns] at night time. The elections came in all night and I was watching, and all night long I was so nervous,” said Youma Ba.
Ba named her West Philly restaurant Kilimandjaro, for the East African mountain because she says it’s the most well-known feature of Africa.
Her small nation of Senegal, known as one of West Africa’s leading democratic lights, has been rocked by violence during rallies against President Abdoulaye Wade.
Four years ago, Wade carried the vote of Philadelphia’s Senegalese community. This year, it’s different. Wade is running again despite term limits he established, and has alientated many of his former supporters.
The television is always on in Ba’s West Phily restaurant. On Monday she alternated between French reports and Senegalese news stations broadcasting election returns.
Fatima Ly grabbed a pen to tally votes announced from the northern region where she grew up.
Ly has been campaigning for the leading opposition candidate, Macky Sall, among Senegalese in Philadelphia. She’s optimistic about his chances, but says the process is just as important as the outcome. “Right now, we’re very happy,” Ly said in French. “We’re delighted because the country is currently peaceful. Everyone is calm and the elections were virtually nonviolent.”Finally making his scheduled television appearance, Wade conceded there could be the possibility of a runoff, which he is not expected to win against a united opposition.
“See you in two weeks,” exclaimed waitress Coumbis Faye, before disappearing through the kitchen doors.