Africa Leaders Magazine

Who is OUSMANE SONKO? – The Elected Mayor of Ziguinchor (Senegal)

“It was a beautiful victory.” On 23 January, a triumphant Ousmane Sonko walked the streets of Ziguinchor, even before the official results of Senegal’s municipal and departmental elections had been announced.

From 9 pm, the oppositionist started a large procession consisting of several vehicles – from his home, located in the HLM-Nema neighborhood – which was very quickly joined by a crowd of supporters.

Restructuring the political landscape

After walking through the city for an hour and a half, Sonko decided to stop in front of the town hall to address his supporters. Activist Guy Marius Sagna, who had voted with him earlier in the morning, Georges Mansaly, PASTEF’s leader and winner of the departmental elections, and economist Cheikh Tidiane Guèye were at his side.

After thanking his teams for supporting him during a “difficult campaign”, Sonko spoke directly to the city’s youth. “What is happening throughout Senegal today marks a fundamental change,” said the new mayor, referring to “strong trends” in favor of his coalition in Dakar, Touba and Guédiawaye.

Although the country was still waiting for official results, some cities in Senegal already had a clear winner. In Dakar, Sonko’s ally, Barthélémy Dias, was declared victorious.

These victories have reinforced the allies’ status as opposition leaders and heralded a restructuring of the political landscape before the legislative elections, which will be held in a few months. “I never doubted [my victory] for a fraction of a second, and the reason why I decided to campaign elsewhere and only spent three days in Ziguinchor is that I had confidence in you,” said Sonko.

But “the political future does not stop at the mayor’s office,” said this former member of the Parti Démocratique Sénégalais (PDS), who had rallied behind Sall in 2019 before leaving the presidential coalition to run in the local elections. As soon as the official results are confirmed, both the opposition and the majority will start preparing for the legislative elections, which will come very quickly – unless they are postponed, as was the case with the local elections, which were initially scheduled for 2019.

“2024 will be in the palace of the republic”

For Sonko, this victory is only a “first milestone” towards his real destination: “2024 will be in the palace of the republic.”  He concluded: “We can celebrate tonight, but tomorrow we will start working,” says the new mayor.

But this resounding victory from the opposition begs the question, who is Ousmane Sonko?

Ousmane Sonko (born 15 July 1974) is a Senegalese politician. He is a former chief tax inspector in Senegal and a tax justice advocate. Sonko was the youngest candidate to run in the 2019 presidential election in Senegal when he challenged the incumbent president, Macky Sall. He is the author of three books. Sonko is seen by many as a rising opposition leader in Senegalese politics to Macky Sall.

 Ousmane Sonko was born in Thiès, Senegal, and spent his childhood in Sébikotane (near Dakar), and Casamance. His father is from Casamance and his mother is from Khombole.

Sonko received a baccalaureate in 1993, and in 1999 a master’s degree in Juridical Science, specializing in public law, from Gaston Berger University of Saint-Louis, Senegal.

After Sonko obtained his master’s degree he attended the National School of Administration and Judiciary (ENAM). Sonko spent 15 years of service as a tax specialist.

Sonko is the president of the political party PASTEF-Les Patriotes “Patriots of Senegal for Ethics, Work and Fraternity”, which was created in 2014. He is also the elected deputy of the NDAWI ASKAN WI / People’s Alternative coalition in the National Assembly.

In 2016 Sonko was a tax inspector-turned-whistleblower. He exposed corrupt practices such as offshore tax havens by the Senegalese elite, such as a $50 million mineral sands processing plant. SNC Lavalin-Mauritius Ltd, a Canadian company used a shell to avoid paying an estimated $8.9 million in taxes. He was terminated as a result of his activism.

Sonko is the author of the Pétrole et gaz au Sénégal, published in 2017. The book chronicles the Petro-Tim affair scandals and argues for the reappropriation of national wealth and sustainable management of the environmental and social impacts of natural resources extraction. In 2018 he authored a second book titled “Solutions”.

Sonko ran for president in the 2019 election in Senegal as a tax justice candidate. Sonko wants Senegal, which still uses the French franc (along with seven other Francophone countries in West Africa) to eventually replace the franc with a domestic currency. “Sonko proposes a gradual, prudent and responsible exit from the franc CFA monetary system that is holding our economies hostage” according to Pastef Partie activist Mamadou Yauck.

In the presidential election of February 24, 2019, Macky Sall was re-elected, winning 58% of the vote. Sonko came in third place with 16%. During the election run-up (and just before election day) Sonko was targeted repeatedly with anonymous smears utilizing fake documents and false claims aimed at discrediting his character.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top