Senegal's new president names ex-banker as premier

Malick Rokhy Ba
1 / 2

Abdoul Mbaye speaks to the press

Senegalese ex-banker and business executive Abdoul Mbaye speaks to the press after he was appointed as the new prime minister in Dakar. "Abdoul Mbaye is named prime minister," said a presidential decree read by the secretary general of the new Senegalese government, whose lineup was expected to be announced later today

Senegal's new President Macky Sall named an ex-banker as his prime minister Tuesday and vowed his team would serve the public good a day after he was sworn in as leader of the west African nation.

"Abdoul Mbaye is named prime minister," read a presidential decree.

In his first televised address to the nation since his crushing victory over veteran president Abdoulaye Wade on March 25, Sall vowed his administration would put the public interest first.

"Power is meant to serve others, not to serve its own interests," he said, adding his team would "ban favoritism and influence peddling and put the public interest above all other considerations."

"There can be no place for soliciting privileges or advantages for individuals" in government, he said.

The new president said legislative elections would be pushed back from June 17 to July 1 of this year.

"Considering the little time that we have before the legislative polls, I have consulted the new opposition" about delaying the vote, he said.

Friday had been set as the deadline to finalise the candidate's list for the polls, but Sall's camp has said that date follows too closely the March 25 presidential vote.

Declaring that "everything was urgent" in the country, the new president said he would focus on education, health and reducing the rising prices of basic goods in the nation where some 800,000 people are going hungry in the north due to a drought gripping the Sahel region.

The new prime minister Mbaye is a 59-year-old technocrat educated in Senegal and France, known for his rigour, and is a newcomer to Senegal political circles.

Just after being named, Mbaye said he would soon announce a slimmed-down cabinet of a maximum of 25 ministers.

"It will be a government that will carry out public affairs in the most transparent way possible and according to principles of good governance," he said.

"Its main priority will be to get to work," he told reporters. "President Macky Sall wants his promises to the people be carried out."

The new cabinet line-up "is certain to be made public tomorrow (Wednesday)," he said.

Sall's incoming team must combat a series of biting social problems in the former French colony, notably unemployment, high food prices, power cuts and a long strike which has crippled the education sector.

As he readies to overhaul the executive and push through key reforms, Sall, 50, must also help prepare his party for the legislative polls to the 140-seat national assembly, still dominated by loyalists of Wade's Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS).

In his address on Tuesday Sall said he was "holding out a brotherly hand to the leaders and fighters" of the Casamance Movement of Democratic Forces, the southern separatist movement that has waged a low-level struggle for independence for three decades, a fight that he said "has lasted too long."

Talks on resolving the simmering conflict would take place "in association with neighbouring countries Gambia and Guinea Buissau."

Sall previously served as prime minister and was considered Wade's designated heir before he fell from grace, quit the PDS and struck out on his own.

He took over as the country's fourth president since independence from France in 1960 after winning 65.8 percent of the votes in a run-off poll against Wade on March 25.

Wade surprised the world by conceding defeat just hours after polls closed and calling his former protege to congratulate him, a move that won him plaudits from around the globe.