Senegalese firebrand Ousmane Sonko to head new government

1 week ago 30

DAKAR - Senegal's new prime minister Ousmane Sonko is a firebrand politician who rallied Senegalese youth to enable the election of his top lieutenant Bassirou Diomaye Faye as president, and who now, as expected, has secured a top role in return. 

A fierce opponent of former president Macky Sall, Sonko, 49, was barred from standing in the March 24 presidential election because of a conviction for defamation. He denied any wrongdoing, but chose the little-known Faye as his replacement, urging his supporters to back him instead.

Sonko and Faye, both former tax inspectors, have positioned themselves as opponents to corruption and elitism and called for Senegal to reject what they see as lingering ties to French colonialism.       

"We'll spare no efforts to reach the objectives we have promised to the Senegalese people, which is, a break with the past, progress, and a definitive change," Sonko said after his appointment.   

In their campaign manifesto, the duo promised to renegotiate mining, oil and gas contracts and create a new national currency.

"Sonko's appointment as prime minister will increase the prestige of the position which was removed several times in the country's political history... an architect of Diomaye's victory, his appointment will give momentum to the Faye administration," said Wendyam Herve Lankoande, West Africa risk consultant at Africa Practice.

He called them a "complementary pair" and said he believed their political relationship "will work if they are able to maintain the right balance - which I think they will." 

Sonko is expected to present Faye with a list of proposed ministers for his approval in the coming days.

In an interview with Reuters, Faye rowed back the pledge to drop the CFA franc, which is pegged to the euro, saying Senegal would first seek to reform the West African Monetary Union in collaboration with its seven other members.  

ARREST AND AMNESTY

Sonko has faced arrest and trial several times in the last years, after rising to prominence when he came third in the 2019 presidential election at the head of the party he founded, the African Patriots of Senegal for Work, Ethics and Fraternity (Pastef). 

He was accused of rape in 2021 and detained, which triggered a wave of deadly clashes between police and his young supporters. He was ultima...

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