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Senegal's new Toure a firm hand

03 September 2013, 08:18

Dakar - Aminata Toure, a rights activist who was named Senegal's new prime minister on Sunday, is known for her toughness and crackdowns on high-level corruption that have even targeted her ex-husband.

As justice minister, Toure oversaw major dossiers including the arrest of Chad's former president Hissene Habre on war crimes charges and an anti-graft sting that took down political heavyweights from the previous administration.

Aged 50, she is the second female head of government in Senegal after Mame Madior Boye, who was prime minister from 2001 to 2002.

"She is a woman with principles, who is demanding.... She can bang on the table, but with arguments," said Demba Ndiaye, a journalist who is one of her former political and union allies.

Local media said Toure was busy meeting candidates for her future cabinet on Monday, continuing consultations begun the night before after she was named to replace sacked predecessor Abdoul Mbaye.

Toure's nomination was generally hailed by the press, with the private newspaper Sud Quotidien saying: "She has a number of values including severity, perseverance and transparency."

The former justice minister is a confidant of President Macky Sall, who was elected in March 2012.

Toure was one of the main figures in the campaign team which brought Sall to victory against former president Abdoulaye Wade, who led Senegal from 2000 to 2012.

Nicknamed "Mimi" Toure in Senegal, she had been justice minister since April 2012.

She oversaw a hunt for illicit gains which led to the arrest of top members of the former regime, including former ministers and the heads of top companies.

Bigwigs caught up in the probe include her ex-husband Oumar Sarr, a former minister.

They also include former president Wade's son Karim, who before his arrest led a "super" ministry covering international co-operation, air transport, infrastructure and energy. He has been behind bars since 17 April in Dakar, accused of illicit gains from his time in office.

Toure has also speeded up the trial of former Chadian president Habre on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and torture.

Habre was detained on 30 June in Dakar, where he had fled after his fall in 1990.

Toure's management of these dossiers earned her strong support from the Senegalese people.

Opponents called her "belligerent" but acknowledged that she is media savvy.

"Things cannot stay the same in Africa when it comes to human rights. Things have to change," Toure recently told foreign journalists in Senegal.

Educated in Senegal and France, she holds a degree in economics. A former militant for Senegal's left wing, she went on to work for non-governmental organisations and the United Nations.



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