Ousmane Sonko (born 15 July 1974) is a Senegalese politician and former tax inspector who is serving as the Prime Minister of Senegal since 2024. He is also the Leader of PASTEF ever since the party was founded in January 2014.

Ousmane Sonko
Sonko during a phone interview in January 2023
Sonko in January 2023
16th Prime Minister of Senegal
Assumed office
3 April 2024
PresidentBassirou Diomaye Faye
Preceded bySidiki Kaba
Leader of PASTEF
Assumed office
January 2014
General SecretaryBassirou Diomaye Faye
Preceded byParty established
Mayor of Ziguinchor
In office
2022–2024
Member of the National Assembly of Senegal
In office
2017–2022
Personal details
Born (1974-07-15) 15 July 1974 (age 50)
Thiès, Senegal
Political partyPASTEF (2014—present)
Children6
Parents
  • Mamadou Sonko (Father)
  • Khady Ngom (Mother)
Alma materGaston Berger University
Occupation
  • Politician
  • tax inspector

Sonko was the PASTEF candidate in the 2019 presidential election, ultimately placing third. A major figure in the Senegalese opposition against former president Macky Sall, his arrest and subsequent investigation by authorities in 2019 following sexual assault accusations triggered mass protests and rioting across Senegal. In June 2023, he was sentenced to two years in prison, and in July 2023, his party PASTEF was dissolved by the Senegalese government.

Early life

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Sonko was born in Thiès and spent his childhood in Sébikhotane and Casamance. His father was from Casamance and his mother was from Khombole.[1]

Sonko received his baccalaureate in 1993, and graduated with a masters degree in Juridical Science from Gaston Berger University in Saint-Louis in 1999. He subsequently attended the National School of Administration and the Judiciary.[2]

Prior to entering politics, Sonko worked for 15 years as a tax inspector in Pikine.[3][4] In 2016, he acted as a whistle blower, exposing the use of offshore tax havens including a $50 million mineral sands processing plants used by a Canadian company to avoid paying $8.9 million in taxes. Sonko's employment as a tax inspector was terminated as a result of his whistleblowing.[5][6] In 2018, he published Pétrole et gaz au Sénégal, a non-fiction book chronicling his findings.[7]

Politics

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In 2014, Sonko founded the African Patriots of Senegal for Work, Ethics and Fraternity (French: Patriotes africains du Sénégal pour le travail, l'éthique et la fraternité, PASTEF). Between 2017 and 2022, he served as a member of the National Assembly.[8]

In 2018, Sonko published Solutions, a book in which he put forward his political manifesto.[9] He was a candidate in the 2019 presidential election, where he called for Senegal to replace the franc with a domestic currency. In the election, Macky Sall was re-elected, with Sonko placing third with 16% of the vote.[10] During the lead up to the election, Sonko reported being targeted with anonymous smears aimed at discrediting his character.[11]

In September 2021, Sonko launched the coalition "Free the People" (Wolof: Yewwi askan wi) with the aim of gaining seats in municipal and departmental councils controlled by parties within Macky's presidential coalition, United in Hope.[12] During the 2022 local elections, Sonko was elected as Mayor of Ziguinchor.[13] His coalition also managed to gain control of local councils from United in Hope, notably in Dakar, in addition to 56 of the 165 parliamentary seats in the National Assembly.[14][8]

2021 arrest

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In February 2021, an employee of a massage parlour filed a complaint against Sonko for "repetitive rape and death threats".[15] On 3 March 2021, Sonko was arrested near Cheikh Anta Diop University and charged with disturbing public order; Sonko called the charges false and politically motivated.[16] Sonko's arrest led to protests; clashes between the police and student protestors in Dakar, Bignona and Diaobe led to 14 reported deaths.[17][18] Protests against Sonko's detainment also occurred internationally, with one outside the United Nations headquarters in New York City, United States, calling for Sonko's release from prison.[19]

Alioune Badara Cissé called on the Senegalese government to stop threatening and intimidating protestors, and also called upon demonstrators to end its violence and looting, warning that Senegal was "on the verge of an apocalypse". The Economic Community of West African States similarly called for restraint and calm, as well as for the government to guarantee citizens the right to protest.[20]

In February 2021, MPs voted by majority to remove Sonko's parliamentary immunity in a vote which was described as "flawed and illegal" by opposition politicians.[21] Sonko was released under investigation; in May 2021, a judge denied to authorise him leaving the country due to his indictment for rape.[22]

Criminal convictions

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On 8 May 2023, following an appeal, Sonko received a six-month suspended prison sentence for defamation and insults against Mame Mbaye Niang.[23]

On 1 June 2023, following two years of investigations, Sonko was cleared of rape charges, but was sentenced to two years imprisonment for "corrupting youth".[24] Sonko had not attended the trial, calling the investigation politically motivated and evidence of malpractice.[25] His conviction made Sonko ineligible to stand as a candidate in the 2024 presidential election, which prompted protests to occur throughout Senegal.[26] Some supporters of Sonko have stated that due to "corrupting youth" being considered a misdemeanour rather than a crime under Senegal law, that Sonko was still able to run; in July 2023, he was named as PASTEF's presidential candidate for the 2024 presidential election.[27]

2023 arrest and protests

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On 28 July 2023, Sonko was arrested again and accused of "disturbing the public order".[28] On 31 July 2023, PASTEF was dissolved by the Senegalese government, triggering national protests.[29] On 6 August 2023, Sonko was reportedly hospitalised following a week-long hunger strike in protest of his arrest.[30] The Senegalese government banned TikTok from the country in August, until it provides a way for the government to censor users who "threaten the stability of the country" by protesting Sonko's arrest.[31] In October 2023, the Ziguinchor court annuled the removal of Ousmane Sonko from the electoral lists. A decision contested by state lawyers, they announced an appeal to the Supreme Court.[32] On 14 December 2023, the verdict in the new trial on the eligibility of Sonko was rendered and Sonko was declared eligible and reinstated on the electoral lists.[33] On 15 March 2024, Sonko was released from prison.[34]

Prime Minister (2024–present)

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Following the victory of his protégé, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, in the 2024 Senegalese presidential election, Sonko was appointed as Prime Minister of Senegal shortly after Faye's inauguration as president on 2 April 2024.[35] Sonko formally presented his government on 5 April, which he described as a "breakaway" government symbolising "a systemic transformation voted for by the Senegalese people".[36]

During his premiership, Sonko has criticised the French military presence in Senegal, as well as Western efforts to promote values deemed incompatible with Senegalese and African mores, including LGBT rights and monogamy. He has also called for a reform of ECOWAS for allowing divisions within the bloc to develop, which had led to the creation of the Alliance of Sahel States.[37]

References

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  1. ^ "Senegal : Who is Ousmane Sonko, the youngest presidential candidate". African Daily Voice. 24 January 2019. Archived from the original on 3 April 2019. Retrieved 6 August 2023.
  2. ^ Beatty Riedl, Rachael; Ndiaye, Bamba; Ba, Oumar (14 September 2022). "Senegal's presidential poll is shaping up as a real contest, with voters in the driver's seat". The Conversation. Retrieved 6 August 2023.
  3. ^ Nakhlawi, Razzan (30 December 2018). "From Implant Files to West Africa Leaks, 2018's most-shared stories". International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. Retrieved 6 August 2023.
  4. ^ "Portrait de candidat: Ousmane Sonko, l'étoile montante". Voice of America (in French). 8 February 2019. Retrieved 6 August 2023.
  5. ^ "The Five Candidates Running in Senegal's Presidential Election". Voice of America. 18 February 2019. Retrieved 6 August 2023.
  6. ^ Fitzgibbon, Will (3 January 2020). "West Africa Leaks: offshore holdings of West Africa's officials, traffickers revealed". Cenozo. Archived from the original on 3 January 2020. Retrieved 6 August 2023.
  7. ^ Seck, Amadou Tom (1 December 2017). "Pétrole et gaz au Sénégal. Chronique d'une spoliation". Le Monde diplomatique (in French). Retrieved 6 August 2023.
  8. ^ a b "Senegal's Ousmane Sonko: Youth hero or rabble-rouser?". The Star. 31 July 2023. Retrieved 6 August 2023.
  9. ^ Lequotidien (17 October 2018). "Livre de Sonko : La directrice du Commerce extérieur rejette les «Solutions»". Le Quotidien (in French). Retrieved 6 August 2023.
  10. ^ "Senegal's president officially declared election winner". Reuters. 5 March 2019. Retrieved 6 August 2023.
  11. ^ Madsen, Michelle (13 June 2020). "My fake news whodunnit: Caught up in a Senegal fake news scam". BBC News. Retrieved 6 August 2023.
  12. ^ "Au Sénégal, lancement d'une coalition autour du principal opposant Ousmane Sonko". Le Monde (in French). 3 September 2021. Retrieved 6 August 2023.
  13. ^ "Municipales au Sénégal : l'opposition remporte Dakar et plusieurs autres grandes villes du pays". France Info (in French). 24 January 2022. Retrieved 6 August 2023.
  14. ^ "Sénégal: l'opposant Ousmane Sonko remporte la mairie de Ziguinchor, une étape importante". RFI (in French). 24 January 2022. Retrieved 6 August 2023.
  15. ^ "Sénégal : ce que contient la plainte pour « viols et menaces de mort » contre Ousmane Sonko – Jeune Afrique". Jeune Afrique (in French). 5 February 2021. Retrieved 6 August 2023.
  16. ^ "Senegal protests after opposition leader Ousmane Sonko arrested". BBC News. 5 March 2021. Retrieved 6 August 2023.
  17. ^ "Senegal clashes kill one after opposition leader arrested". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 6 August 2023.
  18. ^ "Senegal: TV stations suspended amid clashes and as Sonko faces court". Africanews. 5 March 2021. Retrieved 6 August 2023.
  19. ^ "Senegalese New Yorkers rally at the UN to demand the release of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko". Africa in Harlem. 5 March 2021. Retrieved 6 August 2023.
  20. ^ "Senegal protests: The country is 'on the verge of an apocalypse'". BBC News. 7 March 2021. Retrieved 6 August 2023.
  21. ^ Faivre le Cadre, Anne-Sophie; Soumaré, Marième (26 February 2021). "Sénégal : Ousmane Sonko perd son immunité parlementaire – Jeune Afrique". Jeune Afrique (in French). Retrieved 6 August 2023.
  22. ^ Millecamps, Matthieu (22 May 2021). "Sénégal : Ousmane Sonko interdit de se rendre à Lomé pour débattre de l'avenir du franc CFA". Jeune Afrique (in French). Retrieved 6 August 2023.
  23. ^ "Sénégal: le gouvernement dissout le parti de l'opposant Ousmane Sonko, 2 morts dans des manifestations". RFI (in French). 31 July 2023. Retrieved 6 August 2023.
  24. ^ Diaw, Papa Atou; Macaulay, Cecilia (1 June 2023). "Ousmane Sonko trial: Senegal opposition leader sentenced for 'corrupting youth'". BBC News. Retrieved 6 August 2023.
  25. ^ "Tension in Senegal is set to persist". The Economist. 8 June 2023. ISSN 0013-0613. Retrieved 6 August 2023.
  26. ^ "Senegal's Macky Sall rules out third term after deadly protests". Al Jazeera. 4 July 2023. Retrieved 6 August 2023.
  27. ^ "Senegal: Opposition politician Sonko declared presidential candidate by his party". Africanews. 15 July 2023. Retrieved 6 August 2023.
  28. ^ Hoije, Katarina (28 July 2023). "Senegal Opposition Leader Charged With Fueling Deadly Protests". Bloomberg News. Retrieved 6 August 2023.
  29. ^ "Sénégal: le gouvernement dissout le parti de l'opposant Ousmane Sonko, 2 morts dans des manifestations". RFI (in French). 31 July 2023. Retrieved 6 August 2023.
  30. ^ "Senegalese opposition leader on hunger strike hospitalised". Al Jazeera. 7 August 2023. Retrieved 7 August 2023.
  31. ^ "Senegal seeks regulation deal with TikTok after ban". Reuters. 5 October 2023. Retrieved 10 October 2023.
  32. ^ "Au Sénégal, la justice relance Ousmane Sonko dans la course à la présidence". Le Monde. 14 October 2023. Retrieved 14 October 2023.
  33. ^ "Sénégal : l'opposant Ousmane Sonko revient dans la course à la présidentielle". Le Monde. 14 December 2023. Retrieved 14 December 2023.
  34. ^ "SÉNÉGAL: L'OPPOSANT OUSMANE SONKO LIBÉRÉ DE PRISON, SCÈNES DE LIESSE À DAKAR". BFMTV. 15 March 2024. Retrieved 15 March 2024.
  35. ^ "Senegal president names opposition leader Ousmane Sonko as PM". France 24. 3 April 2024. Retrieved 3 April 2024.
  36. ^ "Senegal's youngest-ever president appoints 'breakaway' government". France 24. 6 April 2024. Retrieved 6 April 2024.
  37. ^ "Senegal's new prime minister criticizes French military presence in the West African country". Associated Press. 18 May 2024. Retrieved 18 May 2024.
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Political offices
Preceded by Prime Minister of Senegal
2024–present
Incumbent