Senegal ex-PM charged over questioning president on France's Le Pen

macky sall

In this file photo taken on August 27, 2021 President of Senegal Macky Sall attends the Vaccine Equity for Africa event in Berlin, amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Photo credit: Tobias Schwarz | AFP


Senegal's former prime minister Cheikh Hadjibou Soumare was charged with libel on Friday after asking President Macky Sall if he had provided funds to French far-right leader Marine Le Pen, his lawyer said.

Soumare, who was budget minister and then prime minister from 2007 to 2009 under former president Abdoulaye Wade, had been detained by police on Thursday.

He was charged with libel and spreading "false information" before being released on bail, Soumare's attorney, Mame Adama Gueye, told AFP.

In an open letter to Sall last weekend, Soumare asked the president whether he had donated 12 million euros ($12.7 million) to a "French political figure" whose party is distinguished "by hatred and rejection of others".

Le Pen, the head of France's National Rally, previously called the National Front, visited Sall in the capital Dakar on January 18.

Soumare did not specify Le Pen by name, but the Senegal government did so in its rebuttal to his question.

In its statement on Tuesday, the government said it "rejects and strongly condemns such insinuations", which it described as "cowardly and unfounded".

Soumare had also challenged Sall to say whether he intended to delay presidential elections due next February.

Sall was elected in 2012 and re-elected in 2019 but has remained silent on whether he intends to seek a third term in 2024, something that critics say would breach the constitution.

In a brief statement to reporters, Soumare said that one of the conditions of his bail was that he could not comment publicly on his case.

Rights defenders and Sall's opponents say civil liberties in Senegal are coming under pressure in the run-up to the presidential vote.

The government refutes any regression and says that laws are being applied fairly.

Two journalists have been charged with spreading false information since November.

Soumare, in 2007, succeeded Sall as prime minister.

After leaving that office, he became president of the commission of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA), which brings together eight countries under a common currency.