In front of hundreds of galvanized students, Senegalese Prime Minister Ousmane Sonko harshly attacked the attitude of Paris on Thursday May 16 during the repression against his camp under former President Macky Sall. He thus accused the Macron presidency of having incited “persecution”.

Champion of social sovereignty and pan-Africanism, Mr. Sonko delivered in a hemicycle at the University of Dakar and to repeated acclamations his longest and most political speech since his appointment in April after the thunderous victory of his people at the presidential.

He clarified that he was speaking as a party leader and not a government leader, during a conference on relations between Africa and Europe with Jean-Luc Mélenchon, also a virulent critic of the French president.

In front of a conquered and heated audience, he engaged in a strong criticism of the past and recent action of the West, Europe and France, including during the three years of confrontation with the former president. Macky Sall. After “leonine relations to the detriment of Africans”, he affirmed the desire for cooperation “based on mutual respect and recognition of the legitimate aspirations of each nation for sovereignty”.

Macron accused of inciting “repression and persecution”

In front of Mr. Mélenchon, whose constant support he praised, he returned to the standoff that he and his party waged in power from 2021 to 2024 and which caused dozens of deaths and hundreds of arrests. “You have never heard the French government denounce what happened,” Mr. Sonko said. He accused Mr. Macron of welcoming and “congratulating” his Senegalese counterpart “at the worst [time]” of the repression. “It is an incitement to repression, an incitement to the persecution and execution of Senegalese who had [committed no other] crime than having a political project,” he declared. Many European governments remained in an “approving silence,” he said.

Mr. Sonko was himself imprisoned for several months and prevented from competing in the presidential election of March 2024, in which he was considered one of the favorites. He was replaced by his second Bassirou Diomaye Faye who won hands down in the first round against the candidate designated by Mr. Sall.

Mr. Sonko also denounced the “neocolonization” at work, according to him, in relations between the West and Africa. “We almost believed it when President Macron declined the new African doctrine from the Elysée, this new doctrine which was to constitute the refusal of any political support for authoritarian and corrupt regimes. This is not what happened in Senegal,” he said.

A speech against the French military presence

Mr. Sonko had distinguished himself as an opponent through his outings against the political and economic influence that, according to him, the former colonial power continued to exercise. He reaffirmed Thursday that his remarks were not aimed at the “French people with whom we have no problem”, but at “the current governing elite”.

He assured that his positions did not change with the accession to power. But this accession “will lead us to collaborate with all governments, including the French state and the government of Mr. Emmanuel Macron.” Cooperation must take into account Senegal’s sovereignty in the monetary field, but also in security.

“We must question why the French army still benefits from several military bases in our countries and the impact of this presence on our national sovereignty and our strategic autonomy,” he said. France does indeed have military installations in Dakar. “I reiterate here Senegal’s desire to have its own control, which is incompatible with the lasting presence of foreign military bases in Senegal,” he continued. “This does not call into question the defense agreements,” he clarified.

He also castigated the double standards of the West and its African allies vis-à-vis the Sahel states that have been the scene of putsch since 2020 (Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger). “Those who today condemn regimes considered military or dictatorial are nevertheless inclined to go to other countries which are not democratic when their interest is there to negotiate oil and the market,” he said. -he says. He deemed “inadmissible” the sanctions taken against the juntas. “We will not let go of our brothers in the Sahel,” he added.

The defense of homosexuality, a risk of “casus belli” with the West

In the same speech, he also warned Westerners that their activism on behalf of homosexuals and sexual minorities could become a source of tension. “External attempts to impose on us the importation of ways of life and thinking contrary to our values ​​risk constituting a new casus belli,” warned Mr. Sonko. “The question of gender comes up regularly in the programs of the majority of international institutions and in bilateral reports, even often as a conditionality for different financial partnerships,” Mr. Sonko said to cheers.

Homosexuality is widely considered a deviance in Senegal where the law punishes so-called “unnatural acts with an individual of the same sex” with imprisonment of one to five years. Mr. Sonko urged Westerners to respect the cultural specificities of his country and others, and argued that there had “never been persecution of these communities.”

Mr. Sonko said he respected the fact that, according to him, the defense of sexual minorities was “elevated to a priority debate within Western opinions”. But in countries like his, this raises “a lot of tension and misunderstanding as it brings cultures, civilizations and political systems with diametrically opposed visions face to face,” he added. He said the defense of these minorities could even fuel “anti-Western sentiment in many parts of the world” more than political differences.

The Prime Minister affirmed that “France makes the stigmatization of the Muslim religion its favorite exercise, to the point of prohibiting Muslims from dressing as they wish.” But he felt that the Senegalese had to adapt to it “if it is consistent with the culture, lifestyles and options of the French.” He recalled that he himself was a polygamist even though polygamy is prohibited in France.