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Serigne Bassirou Guèye Pleads Self-Defence

The former Prosecutor of Dakar, Serigne Bassirou Guèye, made a rather unprecedented outing, to address the media on Thursday, January 26, 2023, to explain his position in the conduct of the judicial proceedings opened against OusmaneSonko for rape. The magistrate who was rudely taken to task, bruised, through all the media and social media networks, was led to ask the permission of his hierarchy to finally be able to explain himself.

In the Senegalese judicial system, judges are often behind the curtain, in the shadows. The general public did not know much about Serigne Bassirou Guèye or put a face to the name. Some imagined him as the « devil with horns » but SerigneBassirou Guèye turned out to be a completely different character; his « rummage does not relate to his plumage », to make the anti-phrase of the words of Jean de la Fontaine. This magistrate, who has spent more time as head of the Dakar Public Prosecutor’s Office than any other of his colleagues, appeared quite serene, teasing and above all took care to explain calmly and used language accessible to everyone, the twists and turns of the Adji Sarr affair and the role he had to play, like all the other protagonists.

It can be said that his exit has ruined the defence of Ousmane Sonko, in the sense that he has highlighted the repeated lies of the man accused by the complainant Adji Sarr. Better, Serigne Bassirou Guèye suggested that he could still say more compromising things and thus warned Ousmane Sonko. A prosecutor in Dakar, he suggested, knows a lot of things! Hear who wants to hear. The comment could not please the « Pastefiens » further SerigneBassirou Guèye is black ebony, by his peasant origins of Cayor, this traditional agricultural province and whose skin is burned by the rays of the burning sun of winter. It is already known, the Pan-Africanist and « patriot » Ousmane Sonkoabhors people « too black of skin »! Laughter is forbidden on this one. Serigne Bassirou Guèye showed himself as a « black man », quite handsome, tastefully dressed, a very trendy polka-dot tie and an Italian collar shirt. He was far from the redneck that had been portrayed in social media networks. In « truth matters little to descend from the monkey; the main thing is not to go back up. » (Richard Wagner).

Serigne Bassirou Guèye Another Victim of Public « Hooliganism »

During last year’s legislative elections in France, Jean-Luc Mélenchon was harshly attacked by the political class, even in the ranks of his political alliance Nupes, for having had to attack and on a recurring basis police forces. Jean-Luc Mélenchon is still struggling against complaints filed by police unions. Former President Nicolas Sarkozy also aroused the same « bronca » in 2017, for attacking magistrates when he had just been indicted by an examining magistrate. In November 2010, President Abdoulaye Wade caused an outcry at the annual meeting of the International Union of Judges held in Dakar. He compared the magistrates to the freed slave who had returned to his master. Earlier on, in 1993, Jean-Paul Dias had been forced to repent for having told the judges to go and buy their shroud if by chance they pronounced Abdou Diouf‘s victory in the presidential election. In 2018, his son Barthélémy Dias was sentenced to six months in prison for « contempt of court ». In these different cases, voices and not the least were raised to ensure the defence and protection of these officials of the Republic, whenever the attacks were related to the exercise of their functions. But today, Ousmane Sonko and his flock can attack magistrates, the gendarmerie, the police, the military, without anyone finding it necessary to react.

The State of Senegal is turning its back and leaving these poor officials to their fate, forced to suffer stoically invective, insult, threats. Ousmane Sonko went crescendo: he mocked the magistrates, then insulted them, now he asks them to prepare with their relatives for the supreme punishment that his army of faithful will decide. Certainly, only thugs and ignoramuses insult the Senegalese magistrates. It must be said, Senegalese magistrates and lawyers are respected around the world for their competence and professional qualities.

As in 1964, Isaac Forster was at the International Court of Justice. He will be followed in international jurisdictional bodies by Judges Kéba Mbaye, Laïty Kama, Dior Fall Sow, Andrésia Vaz, Youssoupha Ndiaye, Elhadji Guissé, DoudouThiam, and many cohorts of other magistrates, some of whom are still active. Here is a politician who has neither their virtue nor their professional qualities, blithely allowing himself to drag them through the mud! The magistrates may have felt alone, abandoned by everyone. It must be said that the dignity of the magistrates had been seriously undermined by the former President of the Union of Magistrates of Senegal (UMS) Souleymane Téliko, who always found the opportunity to slay some of his peers until he ended up being condemned. In disciplinary matters by the Superior Council of the Judiciary for remarks which could have landed any other defendant in prison.

The Distress of the Judges

Senegal is a special country where people are casual in the face of bias, outright attacks on other people. If the person manages to answer, we fall on him with a moralising disapproval like “no he shouldn’t have”. And the most exposed to this ordeal and that have to live with their families and loved ones are the senior officials who fulfil an essential public mission. Serigne Bassirou Guèye had to put on the costume of an American prosecutor. After two good years of attack in good standing against his person, the Proc’ Guèye came out of his reserve and enlightened the lantern of many Senegalese.

To try to save his head in the case opposing him to Adji Sarr, Ousmane Sonko always cries conspiracy through his monologues in front of the press and has cited the former prosecutor of Dakar among the actors of the alleged plot. Ousmane Sonko is lying, he knows he is lying and everyone knows he is lying and he knows everyone knows he is lying. Nevertheless, he keeps on accusing people. Serigne Bassirou Guèye‘s response matches the outrage and packaging he suffered. He put the press on his tempo, distilled clear messages and above all gave red lines which, if they were to be crossed by Sonko and his followers, would justify a new exit which would hurt all the more. I am one of those who applaud the release of Serigne Bassirou Guèye. This has allowed him to give his version of truth when all the noise is dissipated, not to argue with armies of puppets who only have the magic of social media to play the disruptive, to be consistent in the postures facing all the challenges. Perhaps the « Proc‘ » has just shown the way, so that no one can be unfairly insulted or dragged through the mud.

His colleague Ousmane Kane, First President of the Court of Appeal of Kaolack, outraged and vexed by the ignominious accusations, had also been led to ask the authorisation of the Minister of Justice to hold a press briefing in the premises of the Chancellery in order to respond to its detractors. He had taken it badly, he suffered a reprimand from the Superior Council of the Judiciary, which nevertheless had refrained from giving him the slightest support during all this dreadful period when he and his family were accused of all the crap. The President of the Republic Macky Sall felt he had to correct this anachronism by granting him a pardon. Serigne Bassirou Guèye could have been somewhere in the controversy and in the contradiction with Ousmane Sonko. Against his will, he is an affected man who wanted to clear his honour. He did not speak as the Prosecutor of Dakar, who he has not been since November 2021, but as a citizen whose dignity has been afflicted.

We augur well that if he was still in post at the Dakar prosecutor’s office, in charge of this AdjiSarrOusmane Sonko affair of sleeping around, he could not have made a pro-domo plea. He found himself alone in the face of the slander and needed to speak, to justify himself for having been quoted in the worst traits and still could not find anyone to defend him and attack the slanderers, neither the Ministry of Justice nor his fellow magistrates. More than once, the hierarchy of the General Prosecutor’s Office refused to get wet and the Union of Senegalese Magistrates (UMS), after a timid first outing, fell silent. The pack has frightened people so much so that if we are not careful, for their comfort and the tranquillity of theirs, the judges will come to choose the cases to be taken care off. Already in a column of September 4, 2020, we echoed the dismay of certain heads of jurisdiction who had difficulty in composing chambers to judge certain cases; identified magistrates always found a way to file medical certificates to « run away ».

Which Model of Defence for Senegalese Magistrates?

The lesson that should be drawn from this situation is that if appropriate mechanisms are not put in place for the defenceof the magistrates attacked in the exercise of their mission, each of them may be required to defend themselves, justify themselves, explain themselves on their own and directly. It is therefore a precedent that should call for reflection. From the time when he was an ephemeral minister of Justice, Lawyer Amadou Sall had tried an experiment that had merit, by setting up a spokesperson at the Ministry of Justice, a function devoted to a magistrate to fulfil, among other things, this kind of mission. This would make it possible to spare the operational actors and to move the cursor towards the ministry which still has a political dimension.

In 2013, when Henri Guaino had uttered violent remarks towards an examining magistrate, following the indictment of Nicolas Sarkozy in the Bettencourt affair, Christiane Taubira, Keeper of the Seals, seized on March 25, 2013, the plenary session of the Superior Council of the Judiciary (CSM) on the “consequences of these remarks on the proper functioning of the judicial institution and on the serenity of Justice”. Several other French political figures had also made comments that could be interpreted as questioning the honour and probity as well as the professional behaviour of magistrates. So, the CSM, after numerous hearings, had proposed changes to « better ensure the protection of magistrates against the attacks of which they may be victims ». The CSM recalled the case law of the European Court of Human Rights which advocated criminal action. On this register, since 2001, the French Ministry of Justice provides the necessary costs for the defence of a magistrate attacked in acts related to the exercise of his mission. However, considering that the criminal route is not always fully satisfactory, the CSM recommended that « the heads of jurisdictions and courts can seize or be seized in order to react quickly to comments questioning the honour and probity of magistrates ». The Union of Magistrates (USM) seized the ball to demand a constitutional reform to allow any magistrate to seize the CSM when his independence is threatened. The USM also asked that the possibility be restored for the CSM to issue spontaneous opinions in the event of an attack on the independence of the judiciary, as was possible until 2008. Indeed, « all inconsiderate attacks on magistrates on the part of political leaders can only alter the credibility of the judicial institution and undermine democracy and the Republic”.

By Madiambal DIAGNE / 

  • Translation by Ndey T. SOSSEH / Serigne S. DIAGNE


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