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Gambia, Guinea Bissau to involve in Casamance talks - Sall

Apr 5, 2012, 1:38 PM | Article By: Agencies

New Senegalese President Macky Sall has said that talks on resolving the simmering conflict in the Casamance region would take place “in association with neighbouring countries Gambia and Guinea Bissau.”

In his first televised address to the nation since his crushing victory over veteran President Abdoulaye Wade on March 25, President Sall said he was “holding out a brotherly hand to the leaders and fighters” of the Casamance Movement of Democratic Forces, the southern separatist movement that has waged a low-level struggle for independence for three decades, a fight that he said “has lasted too long.”

In his address on Tuesday, Sall, who presided over Senegal’s 52nd independence anniversary on Wednesday 4th April, vowed his administration would put the public interest first.

“Power is meant to serve others, not to serve its own interests,” he said, adding his team would “ban favoritism and influence peddling, and put the public interest above all other considerations.”

“There can be no place for soliciting privileges or advantages for individuals” in government, he said.

Sall also promised to reduce Senegal’s diplomatic representation abroad, cut down the number of delegates travelling overseas for missions, and also shortened the number of days of travel by such missions.

He also announced a new measure regarding the passage of the presidential convoy, stressing that there will no longer be any delay in traffic blockade before and after the departure of the convoy.

Sall said his government will also set up an independent body to make audits of all government ministries and departments in Senegal, whose work he will not interfere with and whose recommendations will be implemented.

The new president said legislative elections would be pushed back from June 17 to July 1 of this year.

“Considering the little time that we have before the legislative polls, I have consulted the new opposition” about delaying the vote, he said.

Friday had been set as the deadline to finalise the candidate’s list for the polls, but Sall’s camp has said that date follows too closely the March 25 presidential vote.

Declaring that “everything was urgent” in the country, the new president said he would focus on education, health and reducing the rising prices of basic goods in the nation where some 800,000 people are going hungry in the north due to a drought gripping the Sahel region.

“It will be a government that will carry out public affairs in the most transparent way possible, and according to principles of good governance,” he said.

“Its main priority will be to get to work,” he told reporters. “President Macky Sall wants his promises to the people to be carried out.”

Sall’s address came hours after he named a renowned Senegalese banker, Abdoul Mbaye, as the country’s new prime minister.

The new prime minister Mbaye is a 59-year-old technocrat educated in Senegal and France, known for his rigour, and is a newcomer to Senegal’s political circles.

Just after being named, Mbaye said he would soon announce a slimmed-down cabinet of a maximum of 25 ministers.

Sall’s incoming team must combat a series of biting social problems in the former French colony, notably unemployment, high food prices, power cuts and a long strike which has crippled the education sector.

As he readies to overhaul the executive and push through key reforms, Sall, 50, must also help prepare his party for the legislative polls to the 140-seat national assembly, still dominated by loyalists of Wade’s Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS).

Sall previously served as prime minister and was considered Wade’s designated heir before he fell from grace, quit the PDS and struck out on his own.

He took over as the country’s fourth president since independence from France in 1960 after winning 65.8 percent of the votes in a run-off poll against Wade on March 25.

Wade surprised the world by conceding defeat just hours after polls closed, and calling his former protege to congratulate him, a move that won him plaudits from around the globe.