The mayor of Ziguinchor disturbs for several reasons. The first is his anti-systemic discourse which earned him the affection of Senegalese, even African, youth in search of sure bearings.
For months, Senegal has lived to the rhythm of trouble et adventures of Ousmane Sonko, the mayor of Ziguinchor. The outgoing president's most serious rival in the presidential election of February 4, 2024, Sonko was sentenced to two years in prison and nearly 980 US dollars in fines for youth corruption.
On July 15, 2023, Ousmane Sonko will be 49 years old. A tax expert from the National School of Administration (ENA), an emblematic figure in Senegalese politics, he finished at the age of 45, third in the 2019 presidential election. A real feat for the one who had become a civil servant of the Senegalese State in 2001, before to be struck off by decree of current President Macky Sall, after several years in office. His crime: having breached the right of reserve by blaming his country for fiscal or even budgetary anomalies.
Therefore, a question arises: would another official have experienced the same sanction? How is the rising star of Senegalese politics disturbing?
The current mayor of Ziguinchor is disturbing for several reasons. The first is the holding of an anti-systemic discourse which earned him the affection of Senegalese, even African, youth in search of sure bearings. These benchmarks pass, for example, through a tacit rejection of the françafrique, France's African policy in Africa in general and in Senegal in particular. To this must be added the rejection of the franc CFA, considered a colonial currency by millions of young Africans.
The second reason, and not the least, is the stated desire to appeal to social ethics in politics. Social ethics is that branch of ethics relating to the actions of groups, social bodies and institutions. Could it be his passion for this social ethic that frightens his detractors? The question needs to be asked. Indeed, the implementation of this social ethic is reflected in Sonko's political discourse in which he favors the higher interests of Senegal where certain colonial powers will be seen as partners among many others and not necessarily privileged partners. This recourse to ethics sometimes gives the impression that the marriage between ethics and politics in Africa almost automatically leads to divorce. Also, one can wonder if ethics wants to bring order where politics sometimes brings disorder. Corruption scandals in some countries lead us to wonder where is the place of ethics in politics.
Sonko's political party, it should be remembered, refers to ethics as its name indicates: Patriots of Senegal for work, ethics and fraternity (Pastef). Indeed, very few political parties in Africa carry within them, the mention of ethics. This may seem trivial, but remains essential to the socio-political and economic life of a country which wants to be democratic and which advocates a certain social justice.
Social justice embodies a form of ideal for an African youth abandoned to itself. According to this social justice, it is necessary to return to each one according to his economic productivity, his functions even his responsibilities. Its Latin expression could not be clearer: “Suum cuique tradere”, that is to say: “give to each his due”. It is a question of giving back to African youth what is due to them. It is this kind of speech that also explains this rise in popularity that we can see among young politicians like Ousmane Sonko in Senegal or Masra success in Chad.
Indeed, a look at African politics shows that ethics, if taken seriously, would add extra soul to what is lacking in our national policies. In this, Sonko disturbs a certain political class refractory to a form of revolutionary discourse. Speech that many young Africans would like to hear, especially when it is held by a young person from a generation close to this same youth and what is more, joins these young people in the reality of their lives and addresses their socio-political demands.
In short, Ousmane Sonko holds a speech of rupture with a certain way of doing politics in Africa and in Senegal with in particular the exit from the CFA franc and its corollary, the economic independence of the former colonies sharing this currency.
The Sonko Affair
Since March 5, 2021, Sonko's political life has been tainted by an affair that risks starting such a promising political career. In question, a complaint brought against him for “repetitive rape” and “death threats”, from Adji Sarr, an employee of a massage parlor where the politician wanted to relieve his back problems. Sonko will in turn lose his parliamentary immunity, be arrested, in addition to facing new charges: “disturbing public order” and “participation in an unauthorized demonstration”; before being released. In the meantime, demonstrations broke out and killed around ten people. Sonko is supported by political parties, including civil society movements. If what Sonko is accused of could be treated fairly, without bias, one would wonder who among the politicians would emerge unscathed from such a situation. In such an atmosphere, it is not excluded that one is in front of a business in a business.
A case in the case
In the opinion of the accused politician, the current president Macky Sall wants to put him out of the presidential race of 2024, as was the case with other opponents before him. Will Sonko undergo the same fate as Karim Wade or Khalifa Sall? The question remains. For two years, what is now known as the “Sonko affair”, has remained a hot file in Senegalese politics. As proof, after two years of politico-judicial disputes, on May 24, 2023, the Dakar prosecutor required ten years of imprisonment against the main opponent of Macky Sall. He was acquitted of the acts of rape and death threats for which he was originally prosecuted. Regrettably, as in 2021, this case still claimed victims.
On May 16, 2023, we once again deplored a tense situation showing barricades, burnt tires and loss of life. If the prosecutor of Dakar required ten years of imprisonment against Sonko, there are gray areas here and there. For a few months, audios of a certain MC Niass have been circulating on social networks. The complainant Adji Sarr mentions the existence of a political “deal” against Sonko”, before withdrawing.
The leader of Pastef was absent from his trial for security reasons. The prosecutor required ten years of criminal imprisonment against him. The last word goes to the president of the court who will give his verdict on June 1, while doubt persists. The existence of contradictions among the witnesses gives the trial a curious tinge with this other count: youth corruption. Is this therefore a political trial? The question remains.