Senegal names new corruption busting prime minister

Senegal's corruption is rampant, but Senegal watchers think the country's new Prime Minister Aminata Touré will make a difference.

Mamadou Gomis/Reuters
Former justice minister and current prime minister of Senegal Aminata Touré attends a news conference in Dakar, Senegal, September 2, 2013.

 It was a historic week for Senegal. Not only did Aminata Touré become the country's second ever female prime minister, but she enters office with a reputation as one of the country's greatest corruption fighters.

A 2011 Transparency International Report indicated that 88 percent of Senegalese believed corruption had increased.  The Global Integrity Report gave the country a “very weak” rating in government accountability and administration and civil service. Senegal watchers, impressed with Ms. Touré's record, see her appointment as a major step forward.

And it hasn’t taken Touré long to get to work. She was appointed prime minister on Sunday, and by Monday she had revealed her new cabinet. She is already making human rights activists happy by choosing a new justice minister with a strong track record on human rights. But as the minister is known for fighting to decriminalize homosexuality in this predominantly Muslim country, the appointment is not as popular with conservative members of society.

Touré has a long history of activism. As justice minister she brought to trial many government officials accused of corruption, including Karim Wade, the son of a former president.

And she hasn’t stopped with Senegal. “Africans should be judged in Africa,” she told Jeune Afrique, a French language newspaper. Under her guidance, Senegal and the African Union signed an accord to create a special tribunal to prosecute the former president of Chad Hissène Habré, accused of numerous crimes against humanity, including mass killings and torture, during his eight years in power. He was finally arrested and formally charged this summer.  

And previous to her entrance into politics in 2012, Touré championed gender mainstreaming and reproductive rights for the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF). After working in various countries for almost a decade, she became the chief of the Gender, Human Rights, and Culture Branch of the UNPF.  

As if that’s not enough:  She’s also known for her athleticism.  When she was younger, she played forward for the soccer team “Les Gazelles de Dakar” in Senegal’s capital.

She may need some fancy footwork to maneuver the hurdles that lay ahead as prime minister of a country known more for conflict and poverty.  But if Touré’s first couple years in government are any indication, Senegal may just have been given a game changer.

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