Members of Senegal’s former regime complaining about being investigated for ill-gotten gains should fear nothing if they are not guilty, President Macky Sall has said.
“Those who have done nothing wrong must be calm because nothing can happen to them. We are not a banana republic,” President Sall said in a statement on private radio station RFM.
He said the audits had been started under his predecessor Abdoulaye Wade’s rule — but had been suspended for unknown reasons — and that audits of the new leadership had not yet started.
Authorities have questioned Senate president Pape Diop, Farba Senghor who held several ministerial portfolios under Mr Wade, as well as ex-energy minister Samuel Sarr over their assets in Senegal and abroad.
Senegal’s new government, which took over after Mr Sall beat Mr Wade in March elections, recently opened a special court to look into fraud and ill-gotten gains.
Mr Wade recently said he was “willing” to undergo audits by the new authorities after a presidency dogged by financial scandals. Many former ministers live in lush villas and have assets which can not be explained by their monthly salaries.
In May, President Sall himself declared over two million euros (Sh223 million) in possessions in an effort to improve transparency. However, he was not obliged to justify his wealth.
But many in the country raised questions about how, the son of a civil servant father and a mother who sold groundnuts, whose highest office held had been prime minister, managed to afford all his assets.
Meanwhile, ex-Premier Souleymane Ndéné Ndiaye has described the audits as “pure harassment”. “I do not believe that the new authorities are trying to audit the dignitaries of the former regime…what they are doing is purely and simply harassing them,” the former premier said.
The Radio Futur Media quoted Mr Ndiaye as saying on Monday evening following his audit that he doesn’t feel threatened by the auditing taking place at the Criminal Investigation Division of the national police in Dakar.
Since last Thursday nearly 10 former top government officials have been heard by the Criminal Investigation Division including the former premier.
“I do not feel threatened because as Premier, I was not responsible to control public funds or launch bids,” he said. “The prime minister only coordinates government activities and mostly policies,” he explained.
Questioned about his personal wealth, he said “it is true that I became richer than I was before becoming a prime minister…but that is normal.” He explained that he earned four million CFA francs monthly (about 6,000 euros) as Premier, but he was usually given money by ex-president Wade.
“Ask Macky Sall he will tell you that he was almost always given money by Wade,” Mr. Ndiaye, the sixth of ex-president Wade’s premiers, said. During the week, several senior government officials have been heard by the special police including Mr Samuel Sarr who held several ministerial posts.
He is presently on record for driving the most expensive car in the country that is estimated at nearly a million dollars. Also heard is the ex-president’s son, Karim Wade, who was particularly quizzed about millions of dollars of Arab funding and his private jet.
Others that have been audited include the former country boy turn multi-millionaire, former minister and close friend to the presidential couple over the string of apartments and lots he owns across the country.
The former power interior minister Osmane Ngom expressed anger after allegedly being audited for 11 hours within the precincts of the special police.
“To me it seems the new regime is playing politics and tactics with the auditing as it is coming on the heels of the legislative poll,” Mr. Ngom said.
The audits are in keeping with the new government’s desire to unveil and retrieve estimated billions of dollars stolen in cash and kind by senior officials of ex-President Abdoulaye Wade’s regime.
It is expected to continue for weeks to come as the list is of those to be heard is long and evidence must collected before any trial, if at all.
The general public is closely following the investigation process and with anger because of the glaring fortunes and lavish life-style that the former government officials exhibit.
After 12 years in power Wade had circumvented a constitutional two-term limit to run in the election by arguing that changes to the law in 2008 meant he could seek a fresh mandate.
Mr Sall’s rise to power capped a tumultuous period for the west African nation, but he faces high expectations from a population tired of unemployment, high food prices, power cuts and a long strike which has crippled the education sector.
In an interview with AFP before the run-off, Mr Sall, Senegal’s first president to be born after independence, said “several emergencies” loomed.
They included a “dramatic public finance situation” as well as a food crisis in the north where some 800,000 Senegalese are going hungry due to a drought gripping the Sahel region.