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Why are tax inspectors in the lead to become Senegal’s next president?




Dakar, Senegal – Trust and power seem to converge in the hands of tax inspectors in Senegal, as the country is ready to vote in a highly anticipated presidential election on Sunday.

The political figures receiving the most attention out of 17 presidential hopefuls during this electoral cycle – candidates Amadou Ba, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, Mame Boye Diao, and former favourite for office, Ousmane Sonko – are all current or former tax inspectors.

For many, it is a simple coincidence, their earlier professions having no bearing on their selection for candidacy. But for others, their perceived wealth and financial savvy make a difference.

To participate in the presidential election, you need the financial means to do it, explained Alioune Tine, a prominent Senegalese political analyst, highlighting that the four figures are the most apt among public administration to participate in the presidential elections thanks to their wealth.

“Financial power looks for political power,” said Tine. “They are often richer than people in the private sector.”

For some voters, the candidates’ background is important as it inspires trust and competency.

Ousmane Guisse, a 37-year-old insurance broker and Ministry of Commerce employee, is planning on voting for Ba, a former prime minister, due to the fact that he proved himself by climbing up the ladder of meritocracy.

“Mr Ba isn’t just a simple inspector like Faye, Sonko or Diao,” said Guisse. “He’s a former director general who has worked his way up to the top.”

Ba was once the director of the Directorate General of Taxes and Estates and was the minister of economy under two governments. Now, he is the presidential candidate of outgoing President Macky Sall’s party, the Alliance of the Republic.

Diao – who belongs to the same party as Ba and incumbent Sall – was the director of the Deposit and Consignment Fund in Senegal and most recently mayor of Kolda, a city in the south of the country, since January 2022.

He has decided to not back Ba, the party’s favourite, in this election and run his own campaign instead under a different party called the Coalition for a New Senegal.

Meanwhile, Sonko, a controversial but also venerated opposition figure, was barred from running in the elections after facing sexual assault and libel charges. Former mayor of the southern Senegalese city of Ziguinchor and a former tax inspector who investigated the government’s gas and oil deals with foreign companies, he rose to prominence as the leader of the Pastef party. The coalition was dissolved in 2023 after Sonko was arrested and accused of inciting riots around the country.

Sonko, together with Faye – also a tax inspector and a favourite in the elections – now lead the opposition party formed out of the syndicate of tax and estate agents they led.

The four men are all vouching to change the country and fight for the people. Either part of the establishment or challenging it, the current or former tax inspectors seem to have coalesced the trust of the people, whether independent of their background or not.

FILE PHOTO: A supporter of jailed Senegalese opposition leader Ousmane Sonko reacts during an electoral campaign caravan to support the detained presidential election candidate Bassirou Diomaye Faye, who Sonko picked to replace him in the race, in the outskirts of Dakar, Senegal March 12, 2024. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra/File Photo
A supporter of jailed Senegalese opposition leader Ousmane Sonko reacts during an electoral campaign caravan to support candidate Bassirou Diomaye Faye, who Sonko picked to replace him in the race, in the outskirts of Dakar, Senegal [File: Zohra Bensemra/Reuters]

Old vs new guard

Guillaume Soto-Mayor, a nonresident scholar at the Middle East Institute, told Al Jazeera that the reputation of tax inspectors can be beneficial but also harmful.

Sonko and Faye are seen as embodying another vision of the tax inspector, one that serves the law and its applications for anyone, no matter their wealth, origins or family ties. Meanwhile, Ba is seen as part of the old guard, reinforcing the same alliances and interests that have dominated Senegal for the past two administrations.

“[Faye and Sonko] incarnate a counter-image of the traditional corrupted, nepotic and kleptocratic administrative figures,” said Soto-Mayor.

On the other hand, explains the scholar, tax collectors are also disliked by some factions of society as the most hated administrative figures as they impede citizens from having thriving businesses and accumulating personal wealth.

Being a tax inspector is seen as “the quickest way to become a millionaire”, according to Soto-Mayor, who believes Senegalese citizens see it as a corrupt position.

Pathe Thiam, a 22-year-old Senegalese student, told Al Jazeera that for him, tax inspectors represent a “certain elitism that is rife in the country because these inspectors were trained in the most prestigious schools and are often colleagues, friends and relatives”.

For Thiam, this raises questions about corruption, because all of the inspectors among the candidates, with the exception of Faye, refuse to make their asset declaration and explain the origin of their campaign funds.

“They have politicised their function, thus forgetting their duty to the republic,” said Thiam.

For other voters, like Vieux Aidara Moncap, a France-based activist for Sonko and Faye’s coalition party Pastef, the role of tax inspector has “absolutely nothing to do with” why certain figures have been selected to represent political parties.

Rather their policies and positions as leaders of the parties, thinks Moncap, are more relevant factors as to why they have been chosen.

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NPR editor resigns after accusing US outlet of liberal bias





Uri Berliner quits broadcaster days after being suspended over essay accusing network of lacking viewpoint diversity.

A senior editor at a public broadcaster in the United States who accused his employer of liberal bias, igniting heated debate about standards in journalism, has resigned.

Uri Berliner, an editor with National Public Radio (NPR), announced his resignation on Wednesday just over a week after he published an essay accusing the outlet of being fixated on race and identity and lacking “viewpoint diversity”.

“I am resigning from NPR, a great American institution where I have worked for 25 years. I don’t support calls to defund NPR. I respect the integrity of my colleagues and wish for NPR to thrive and do important journalism,” Berliner said in a resignation letter posted on X.

“But I cannot work in a newsroom where I am disparaged by a new CEO whose divisive views confirm the very problems at NPR I cite in my Free Press essay.”

My resignation letter to NPR CEO @krmaher

— Uri Berliner (@uberliner) April 17, 2024

NPR did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Berliner’s resignation came after NPR on Friday slapped the editor with a five-day suspension without pay in response to his essay calling out the network.

In the essay published in The Free Press, Berliner argued that the outlet had lost the public’s trust by putting a progressive slant on coverage of major news stories, including the COVID-19 pandemic and claims that Donald Trump colluded with Russia.

“There’s an unspoken consensus about the stories we should pursue and how they should be framed,” Berliner wrote.

“It’s frictionless – one story after another about instances of supposed racism, transphobia, signs of the climate apocalypse, Israel doing something bad and the dire threat of Republican policies. It’s almost like an assembly line.”

Berlinera also cited voter registration data that he said showed there were 87 Democrats and no Republicans on staff at the outlet’s Washington, DC, headquarters.

Berliner’s essay promoted public pushback from NPR employees, including recently-appointed CEO Katherine Maher, whose own views came under scrutiny after conservatives surfaced old tweets expressing progressive views.

“Asking a question about whether we’re living up to our mission should always be fair game: after all, journalism is nothing if not hard questions,” Maher said in a memo to staff that was also published online.

“Questioning whether our people are serving our mission with integrity, based on little more than the recognition of their identity, is profoundly disrespectful, hurtful, and demeaning.”



Al Jazeera and news agencies

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More than 11,000 evacuated in northern Indonesia as Ruang volcano erupts





Authorities further extend exclusion zone after volcano sends ash and smoke more than two kilometres into the sky.

More than 11,000 people have been told to evacuate from around the Ruang volcano in northern Indonesia amid fears it could collapse causing a tsunami, after erupting multiple times.

Mount Ruang, located in in North Sulawesi Province, first erupted at 9:45pm (13:45 GMT) on Tuesday sending billowing clouds of smoke and ash high into the sky.

After four more eruptions on Wednesday, Indonesia’s volcanology agency raised the alert level for the 725-metre (2,379-foot) high mountain to four, the highest on the scale.

They also widened the exclusion zone around the crater from four kilometres (2.5 miles) to six kilometres (3.7 miles).

More than 800 people were evacuated initially from Ruang to nearby Tagulandang Island, which is located more than 100 kilometres (62 miles) north of the provincial capital, Manado.

But officials said on Thursday morning that more people would need to be evacuated as a result of the widening exclusion zone, and would be taken to Manado.

“At least 11,615 residents who are in the risk area must evacuate to a safe place,” Abdul Muhari, the head of the disaster agency’s disaster data, communications and information centre was quoted as saying by the Kompas newspaper.

Officials also worry that part of the volcano could collapse into the sea and cause a tsunami as it did during a previous eruption in 1871.

Video footage showed flows of red lava streaming down the mountain, reflected in the waters below, and billowing clouds of grey ash above Ruang’s crater.

Muhammad Wafid, the head of Indonesia’s geological agency, earlier said Ruang’s initial eruption sent an ash column two kilometres (1.2 miles) into the sky, with the second eruption pushing it to 2.5 kilometres (1.6 miles).

The volcanology agency said volcanic activity had increased at Ruang after two earthquakes in recent weeks.

Indonesia, which sits along the ‘Ring of Fire’, a horseshoe-shaped series of tectonic fault lines around the Pacific Ocean, has 120 active volcanoes.

In 2018, the eruption of Indonesia’s Anak Krakatoa volcano triggered a tsunami along the coasts of Sumatra and Java after parts of the mountain fell into the ocean. Hundreds of people were killed.



Al Jazeera and news agencies

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Russia-Ukraine war: List of key events, day 784





As the war enters its 784th day, these are the main developments.

Rescue workers at the site of a collapsed building in Chernihiv. There is an excavator at the front on top of the rubble. The buildings, which are several stories high. are behind.

Rescue workers at the site of Wednesday’s missile attack on Chernihiv [Genya Savilov/AFP]

Here is the situation on Thursday, April 18, 2024.


  • At least 17 people were killed in the Ukrainian city of Chernihiv after it was struck by three Russian missiles. Emergency services said 60 people, including three children, were injured. About 250,000 people live in Chernihiv, which is about 150km (90 miles) north of the capital, Kyiv.
  • One woman was injured by falling debris after Russian forces brought down a done over the Voronezh region. Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said air defence also destroyed 14 airborne targets over the southern Belgorod region. No injuries were reported.
  • The BBC reported the number of Russian soldiers killed in the war in Ukraine had topped 50,000. The data was compiled by BBC Russian, independent media group Mediazona and volunteers.
  • Colonel Serhii Pakhomov, acting head of the Ukrainian military’s atomic, biological and chemical defence forces, told the Reuters news agency that Kyiv had recorded about 900 uses of riot control agents on the front line by Russia in the past six months. The gases, banned for use on the battlefield by the international Chemical Weapons Convention, are being used to try and clear trenches, Pakhomov said. Some 500 troops had required medical help after exposure to toxic substances on the battlefield and at least one soldier died after suffocating on tear gas, he added.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the Ukrainian military attacked a large Russian airfield at Dzhankoi in the north of occupied Crimea. A series of explosions were reported at the base. There were no reports of damage.

Politics and diplomacy

  • US House Speaker Mike Johnson said the House would hold a long-delayed vote on a $60bn aid package for Ukraine on Saturday. The bill, passed by the Senate in February, has been held up amid objections from far-right members of Johnson’s Republican party.
  • Writing in the Wall Street Journal, US President Joe Biden urged Congress to approve the package saying the conflict was at a “pivotal moment”.
  • China said that “a lot of work” would need to be done before a planned peace conference on the Ukraine war could take place in Switzerland. It did not say whether it would attend the meeting, which is expected to take place in June.
  • Russia’s FSB security service arrested four people, accusing them of sending money to Ukrainian armed forces and planning to join the country’s military.
  • France appointed investigating magistrates to run a war crimes investigation into the death of Fox News cameraman Pierre Zakrzewski, a dual French-Irish national, who was killed covering the war in Ukraine in March 2022. Producer Oleksandra Kuvshynova was also killed when the news team’s vehicle came under fire in Horenka near Kyiv. Correspondent Benjamin Hall was badly injured.
  • Cybersecurity firm Mandiant warned a cyber group known as Sandworm, with links to Russian military intelligence, is emerging as a significant global threat after playing an increasingly critical role in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Sandworm “is actively engaged in the full spectrum of espionage, attack, and influence operations”, Mandiant said.


  • President Zelenskyy, addressing the European Council by videolink hours after the Chernihiv attack, pleaded for more defence systems. Zelenskyy said Ukraine should enjoy the same cover from aerial attacks as Israel, which was able to intercept a barrage of drones and missiles fired by Iran last weekend. “Our Ukrainian sky, the sky of our neighbours deserves the same level of defence,” he said. “All lives are equally valuable.”
  • German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and other senior German officials pressed fellow European Union members to take action as soon as possible to boost Ukraine’s air defences. On Saturday, Germany announced it was sending an additional Patriot air defence system to Ukraine.
  • NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said the NATO-Ukraine Council will meet on Friday to discuss ways on how to provide more air defence systems for Kyiv.
  • A crowdfunding initiative launched by a Slovak group on Monday has so far raised 750,000 euros ($798,000) from members of the public. The group, Peace for Ukraine, hopes to raise one million euros ($1.07 million) for the Czech Republic’s initiative to buy ammunition for Ukraine. Slovakia’s government has refused to send military aid to Kyiv.

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