Now Reading
Senegal arrests Islamic agitators for claiming prime minister is gay

Senegal arrests Islamic agitators for claiming prime minister is gay

French politician’s visit triggers political uproar

Senegal Prime Minister Ousmane Sonko: Homosexuality is ""not accepted, but tolerated." (Sylvain Cherkaoui photo courtesy of AP)
Senegal Prime Minister Ousmane Sonko: Homosexuality is “not accepted, but tolerated.” (Sylvain Cherkaoui photo courtesy of AP)

A left-wing French politician’s visit to the West African nation of Senegal has led to anti-gay Senegalese Prime Minister Ousmane Sonko being accused of  homosexuality and two Islamist figures being arrested for making that accusation.

No one had expected that a May 16 meeting  in Dakar between Senegalese Prime Minister Ousmane Sonko and former French presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon would cause an upheaval in Senegal’s political landscape.

During a separate meeting with students, Sonko has stated that homosexuality “is not accepted, it is tolerated in Senegal” although Senegalese law calls for five years in prison and fines of 1.5 million CFA francs (about 2,300 euros or US$2,500) for anyone convicted of same-sex intimacy.

Much of the men’s discussions focused on relations between France and Senegal, a former French colony.

Sonko stated, “I want to reiterate Senegal’s desire for self-determination, which is incompatible with the long-term presence of foreign military bases in Senegal.”  France has about 350 troops in Senegal.

Former French presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon: ""Freedom of love should be open to everyone.” (Chang Martin photo courtesy of Le Journal du Dimanche/SIPA)
Former French presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon: “”Freedom of love should be open to everyone.” (Chang Martin photo courtesy of Le Journal du Dimanche/SIPA)

Mélenchon’s France Unbowed party was a strong supporter of Sonko and current Senegalese President Bassirou Diomaye Faye long before Faye put an end to his time as a leader of the political opposition by winning the March 2024 presidential election, which came only a few days after both men were released from prison.

But the topic of LGBT rights caused an uproar. The audience booed when Mélenchon reminded them of his support for same-sex marriage.  After Sonko said, “Senegal and many other African countries cannot accept any truth in legalizing this phenomenon”, Mélenchon responded, “Freedom of love should be open to everyone.”

For Erasing 76 Crimes, Sadio Dupuy Des Islets (pseudonym), a Dakar-born observer of Senegalese political life, explains what has been going on in Senegal.

Sadio Dupuy Des Islets: Media coverage of the exchanges between Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Ousmane Sonko differed greatly between France and Senegal.

Senegal Prime Minister Ousmane Sonko (Photo courtesy of @derkhadim / Instagram): Homosexuality is ""not accepted, but tolerated."
Senegal Prime Minister Ousmane Sonko (Photo courtesy of @derkhadim / Instagram):

While in France there is no doubt that Ousmane Sonko is homophobic and hostile to LGBT+ rights and any form of decriminalisation of homosexuality, the same cannot be said in Senegal, where some people are casting doubt on his promise made two years ago to toughen the criminalisation of homosexuality in Senegal. [That unsuccessful effort to increase penalties for homosexuality would have established penalties of up to 10 years’ imprisonment and €7,600 in fines for same-sex intimacy in a country where the average salary was just €146 a month in 2017.]

Sonko recently reiterated in  speech to a group of students that “Senegal and many African countries cannot accept any attempt to legalise homosexuality”.

Erasing 76 Crimes: What are the political ramifications of this uproar?

Sadio Dupuy Des Islets: We are witnessing a collapse of Ousmane Sonko’s political coalition between radical Islamists and  Islamo-conservatives. The Islamo-conservatives  who welcomed the nationalist tone of the Senegalese prime minister’s speech on homosexuality, as well as his firmness, following the example of Ababacar Mboup, [Ababacar Mboup is the former coordinator of the Islamist pressure group And Samm Jikko Yi, which means “Together for the Defence of Values” in the Wolof language.] The most radical Islamists were quick to denounce what they see as Sonko’s excessive leniency shown towards LGBT+ groups, since homosexuality cannot even be tolerated, in their view.

See Also
Archbishop Thomas Luke Msusa leads July 13 protests against same-sex marriage in Blantyre in Malawi. (Lameck Masina photo courtesy of VOA)

Among the leaders of this split are some of Ousmane Sonko’s former supporters, including the ridiculous Mame Mactar Gueye, communications officer and spokesman for Jamra, a pan-Islamist NGO with sympathies for Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP party in Turkey.

At the other end of the political spectrum, opposition figures close to the former regime jumped at the opportunity to attack the current Prime Minister, accusing him of practising double standards.

Activist Bah Diakhaté was arrested for his criticism of Prime Minister Ousmane Sonko's position on homosexuality. (Photo courtesy of @lesechos221 / Instagram)
Activist Bah Diakhaté was arrested for his criticism of Prime Minister Ousmane Sonko’s position on homosexuality, including allegations that Sonko is gay. (Photo courtesy of @lesechos221 / Instagram)

Imam Cheikh Ahmed Tidiane Ndao and activist Bah Diakhaté were taken into custody and charged with spreading false news and insulting the head of government following accusations of homosexuality made against Ousmane Sonko.  [Both men published allegations that Sonko is gay on YouTube in the Wolof language.]

Erasing 76 Crimes: What should we expect next?

Sadio Dupuy Des Islets: For the time being, parliamentary elections are scheduled for October, but early legislative elections could be held much earlier.

During this transitional period, Jamra intends to use its influence with the country’s imams and religious and moral authorities to make its case for tougher and broader penalties for homosexuality.

It is to be feared that all these people will be reconciled at the expense of Senegal’s LGBT+ community, with a very difficult future ahead.

View Comment (1)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

© 2022 ERASING 76CRIMES
Scroll To Top

Discover more from Erasing 76 Crimes

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading