Senegal’s president names ‘breakaway’ govt


Faye looks set to share responsibilities with his appointed prime minister and former mentor Ousmane Sonko, who helped propel the political newcomer’s rise to power…reports Asian Lite News

Senegal’s President Bassirou Diomaye Faye named a “breakaway” government on Friday, appointing a host of fresh faces to top roles following his landslide election win last month.

The 44-year-old, who has never before held elected office, swept to a first-round victory on a promise of radical reform, becoming the country’s youngest president.

Faye looks set to share responsibilities with his appointed prime minister and former mentor Ousmane Sonko, who helped propel the political newcomer’s rise to power.

Sonko unveiled on Friday a cabinet of 25 ministers, hailing it as a break from the past.

“The government set up here on April 5 is a breakaway government… that embodies the project, a systemic transformation voted for by the Senegalese people,” said Sonko.

Sonko, 49, spearheaded Senegal’s anti-establishment movement but endorsed Faye on the presidential ballot after he was barred from running himself due to a defamation conviction.

Birame Souleye Diop was appointed energy minister, a strategic position in a country that is due to start producing oil and gas in 2024.

Ousmane Diagne, a former public prosecutor at the Dakar Court of Appeal, becomes justice minister.

The government included four women, who were handed the portfolios of foreign affairs, fisheries, family and youth and culture.

Senegal is facing a host of major challenges, including an official unemployment rate of 20 percent.

Sonko said on Friday the government’s priorities would include employment for young people, lowering the cost of living and protecting human rights.

Faye defeated the ruling coalition’s candidate in a March election by a landslide, reflecting high hopes for change in the country of around 18 million.

The audit is one of the first policy moves announced since the 44-year-old former tax inspector’s inauguration on Tuesday.

“The exploitation of our natural resources, which according to the constitution belong to the people, will receive particular attention from my government,” he said.

“I will proceed with the disclosure of the effective ownership of extractive companies (and) with an audit of the mining, oil, and gas sector.”

He did provide further details, but sought also to reassure investors, who he said were “welcome in Senegal.”

“Investor rights will always be protected, as well as the interests of the state and the people,” he said. Senegal’s first offshore oil development is due to start production in mid-2024. The Sangomar oil and gas project operated by Woodside Energy WDS.AX is expected to produce about 100,000 barrels per day.

Faye’s  appointment marked a significant moment in the country’s political landscape. Faye’s ascent to power, just 10 days after his release from prison, came with promises of radical reform and a fresh perspective.

The appointment of Ousmane Sonko, a prominent opposition figure and Faye’s former mentor, as prime minister, signals a collaborative approach to governance. Sonko, known for his anti-establishment stance, played a pivotal role in Faye’s journey to the presidency, despite being unable to contest the election himself due to legal constraints.

The close relationship between Faye and Sonko was evident during their joint campaign tour, where they received enthusiastic support from crowds chanting their names in unison. Sonko’s endorsement of Faye further solidified their alliance, culminating in Faye’s decisive victory in the presidential election.

As Faye assumes the presidency, Sonko’s role as prime minister is expected to be influential in shaping the new government. With his vast experience and grassroots support, Sonko brings a wealth of knowledge and perspective to the administration.

During the inauguration ceremony, Sonko received a warm reception from his supporters and affirmed his commitment to working closely with Faye to implement their shared vision for Senegal. As he prepares to form the government, Sonko expressed his intention to present a proposal of government appointments to Faye in the near future.

Faye’s landslide victory in the election underscores the public’s confidence in his leadership and his ability to bring about meaningful change. With Sonko by his side, Faye is poised to navigate the challenges ahead and steer Senegal towards a brighter future.

Sonko, who came third in the 2019 presidential election, had been embroiled in a series of legal cases since 2021 that he said were politically motivated and aimed to curtail his bid for the presidency.

The unrest linked to his legal woes left dozens dead and hundreds arrested.

Following their release from jail, Faye and Sonko embarked on a whirlwind campaign tour with the aim of spreading their “project” for the people.

Sonko on Tuesday evening reiterated their programme “for a sovereign, just and prosperous Senegal” that “we drew up together, that we presented together to the Senegalese people and that we defended together”.

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