The Senegalese capital, Dakar, which has a population of three million inhabitants, has had a tumultuous mayoral history over the past two years. The former mayor, Khalifa Sall, was arrested on suspicion of embezzling 1.8 billion CFA francs and was then convicted of swindling public funds and forgery before he was sentenced to five years in prison plus a fine of 5 million CFA francs (US$9 033).
Charges of the embezzlement of public funds, money laundering and criminal conspiracy against Sall have since been dropped. The former mayor recently announced his presidential aspirations for the upcoming 2019 elections.
“I am a candidate for the 24 February 2019 presidential election, with the firm conviction that we shall draw from this event the energy to gather the strong forces of the nation, win the trust of the people and raise our dear country,” Sall said in a recent statement.
His legal wrangles, however, paved the way for Dakar’s historic election of Soham El Wardini, the city’s first female mayor since independence in 1960. Prior to that, Dakar has had only one pre-independence mayoress since it was founded in 1857.
Born in the town of Latmingué and raised in the Kaolack region, Wardini’s political career started in 1999 when she joined the Alliance of Forces of Progress (AFP), the party of the former socialist prime minister. When the AFP split, she joined the Khalifa Sall faction in 2012 and rose through the ranks to become his deputy in 2014. While Sall was deposed and his case was being tried, Wardini served as acting mayor.
“I am proud to be the first female mayor of the Senegalese capital,” she stressed to the press. “The teams will remain unchanged. We will finish the projects started. The key is to get back to work and stay united. I assure you that the fight continues,” she continued, alluding to her predecessor’s struggles.
The mayoress has little over a year before the next municipal elections and has set her sights on ensuring a clean capital under her tenure: “I do not want Dakar to be named one of the dirtiest cities in the world. It deserves all the sacrifices.”