Music Star Cools Touchy Situation In Senegal

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Opposition leaders canceled a political demonstration that many feared would turn violent Friday after Youssou N'Dour interceded.

N'Dour called key members of the opposition and persuaded them to halt the protest, said opposition coalition spokesman Ousmane Badiane, who had coordinated the march.

"Sometimes when there is a crisis in our country, we turn to opinion makers like Youssou N'Dour. He's a singer we all know. He's brilliant, and so people listened to him," Badiane said.

The 47-year-old Grammy winner said he felt compelled to speak out after protesters clashed with police on Jan. 27, leaving several injured.

"I think the protest would have turned violent, and it's not good for the image of my country," N'Dour told The Associated Press hours after the protest was canceled.

"Everyone listens to my music. They're interested in what I have to say. They also know that in politics, I'm neutral," said N'Dour, who rose to prominence in the United States and Europe in the 1980s with his country's homegrown popular music, mbalax. "So I think because of this, the opposition listened and agreed to do this for the good of our country."

The march was scheduled to occur 48 hours before the start of Senegal's presidential campaign on Sunday. The presidential election is set for Feb. 25.

City authorities had not issued a permit to the demonstrators, virtually guaranteeing a clash with security forces. The U.S. Embassy warned Americans to stay off the expected march route.

Opposition leaders have a long list of complaints, including that parliamentary elections have twice been postponed.