By Sadibou Marone
DAKAR – Aminata Touré, who was appointed on Sunday as the second female prime minister in Senegal’s history, is seen by many Senegalese observers as the country’s “iron lady.”
During her 17-month tenure as justice minister, she led several successful anti-corruption cases involving former officials of the regime of former president Abdoulaye Wade, who ruled the country from 2000 to 2012. Those officials stand accused of embezzling billions of dollars from the public purse.
One of the most important of Toure’s cases involved Karim Wade, the son of the former president who from 2009 to 2012 had served as Minister of State for international cooperation, regional development, air transport and infrastructure.
A special court ordered the arrest of Karim – who had been touted as a possible successor to his father – after he failed to reveal the sources of his estimated $1 billion in assets.
Touré, 50, also led the legal battle against several former leaders of Wade’s Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS), including her former husband, Oumar Sarr, who had served as minister of housing and construction under Wade.
As a member of the former ruling party, Sarr faces charges of mismanaging public funds.
Touré has also dealt with other difficult cases, such as the arrest and imprisonment of Cheikh Bethio Thioune, an influential religious figure accused of complicity in murder.
Thioune, who has thousands of young followers, threw his support behind Wade during Senegal’s 2012 presidential election.
He was arrested on charges of complicity in murder, but has since been freed on medical grounds.
Touré also led the arrest and trial of Hissen Habré, the former Chadian president who has taken refuge in Senegal since 1990.
Senegalese police arrested Habré on June 30 on charges of crimes against humanity and torture.
He will stand trial before an international tribunal in Senegal formed under a special law passed by the Senegalese parliament in 2012.
Touré’s successful anti-corruption crusade has won her the support and admiration of most of the Senegalese public.
Touré, the country’s second female premier, has already begun consultations aimed at drawing up a new government.
“I accept this position offered to me by the president with great humility,” she told reporters late Sunday. “I’m committed to accelerate actions undertaken since President [Macky] Sall was elected last year.”
During his 2012 election campaign, Sall promised to improve the living conditions of the Senegalese people.
Touré had left her position at the United Nations Population Fund to join Sall’s campaign team, playing an important role in his election.
As new prime minister, she will now have to fast-track the reforms promised by Sall.
One of Toure’s many challenges will be reducing the costs of living and creating job opportunities in a country suffering from chronically high unemployment rates.