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The news that Youssou N’Dour, perhaps Africa’s most famous musician, is running for president of Senegal is not entirely unexpected—he had announced plans to “enter the political arena” last November. Canny observers might have spotted the telltale signs in a 2007 Guardian interview, when N’Dour claimed that “I don’t want to be a politician.” The political situation in Senegal has, admittedly, changed since then, as President Abdoulaye Wade unsuccessfully tried to enact reforms that would have greatly boosted his chances of winning a third term.

N’Dour is the latest in a long line of musicians seeking office. Fela Kuti, the…

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