Mame Madior Boye is a Senegalese lawyer and activist, who was also a Prime Minister of Senegal.
She was the first female holder of that position.
Boye was born in 1940 in Saint-Louis, Senegal.
She was the first President of the Association of Senegalese Lawyers from 1975 to 1990, then the Director of Engagements for the West African Banking Company (Compagnie bancaire de l’Afrique Occidentale, CBAO) from September 1990 to April 2000.
Archives also note that following the victory of Abdoulaye Wade in the 2000 presidential election, she became Minister of Justice in April 2000.
She was appointed as Prime Minister by Wade on 3 March 2001, following the resignation of Moustapha Niasse. Boye, who was not a member of any political party, remained Justice Minister in the new executive.
And following the April 2001 parliamentary election, Boye was reappointed as Prime Minister on 10 May 2001; she was, however, replaced as Justice Minister in the government appointed on 12 May.
Boye and her government were dismissed by the President on 4 November 2002, reportedly due to her reaction to the MV Joola sea disaster in September 2002. Later, in September 2004, Boye was appointed by Alpha Oumar Konaré as the African Union’s Special Representative for the promotion of the protection of civilians in armed conflicts.
Educationally, she holds a B.A., University of Dakar, Senegal; law degree with honors from the National Center for Judiciary Studies, Paris, France, 1969.
Politically, she is independent.
She also served as president and vice president of the International Federation of Women in Legal Careers.
She is the founder and president of the Federation of African Jurists; and a founding member, Moussa Diop Foundation of Assistance to Psychiatric Hospitals.
In other career stints, she served as prosecuting attorney for Senegalese government; became vice president, Dakar Regional Court; served as appeals court judge in Senegalese capital of Dakar; she became adviser to Senegal’s Supreme Court of Appeal; became staff lawyer, Occidental Banking Company of Africa, 1990.
Boye broke new ground in other ways as well: in a part of the world where politics has sometimes seemed to be little more than an extension of long-standing ethnic rivalries, she represented a new kind of African politician.
She is a lawyer with a distinguished career and much-needed expertise in the financial world.
Africans in general and women in particular seldom had the chance to pursue higher education growing up at her time, but Boye attended and graduated from the Senegal’s flagship educational institution, the University of Dakar.
She came of age in the first flush of excitement surrounding Senegal’s independence from France, whose withdrawal from the country in 1960 ended centuries of colonial domination.
A star student, she was offered the chance to go to France to study law–in effect to become one of the builders of the young nation’s societal institutions.
Boye acquitted herself well in Paris once again, graduating with honors in 1969 from the National Center for Judiciary Study in Paris; her course of study included law and economics.
Returning home, she worked her way up through the Senegalese legal hierarchy. Her first job was as a prosecuting attorney for the government, and then she became associated with the country’s central courts in the country’s capital, Dakar.
She served as vice president of the Dakar regional court and then became an appeals court judge, in Senegal as in the United States, a post that made her part of the judicial elite.
She also found time to raise two children. Her highest legal post was as an adviser to the country’s Supreme Court of Appeal–roughly equivalent to the United States Supreme Court.
Holding that position through much of the 1990s, Boye also became a staff lawyer at a large bank, the Occidental Banking Company of Africa.
Thus she became increasingly involved with the fundamental legal and financial institutions of a free-enterprise society. That activity opened the door to higher positions for Boye, for her own professional evolution co-occurred with important changes in Senegalese politics.
Senegal, on Africa’s Atlantic coast, was first colonized by the French in 1659. It became a center of the Atlantic slave trade. The infamous Goree Island lies off the country’s coast.
Becoming independent from France in 1960, Senegal, like other African countries, experimented with socialism. The drive toward a centralized economic system was led by the country’s charismatic president Leopold Senghor, who gradually assumed more and more power.
His successors continued the tradition of one-party rule, but in the 1990s, again like other African nations, Senegal experienced liberalization.
Government enterprises were sold off to private corporations, and free elections were held in the spring of 2000.
The News website, Africa-Confidential.com, summed up part of her reputation when it referred to her as “Wade’s leading female technocrat.”
But there was more to the appointment than that: Boye seemed to ordinary Senegalese to have the toughness and the no-nonsense demeanor necessary to lead the country through what promised to be a period of considerable instability.
She seemed impartial and able to undertake difficult measures for the public good. It seemed that she would require both strength and diplomatic skills in the years ahead, for Wade’s Democratic Senegal Party remained a minority in the country’s legislature.
Obviously, Boye’s appointment marked a leap forward for Senegalese women. Senegal grew as a nation within traditions marked by male domination. One of many issues was women’s lack of legal protection, a situation which Boye worked to change through much of her own career.
Boye herself was quoted as saying in Jet that her appointment showed that the president “has a lot of confidence in women,” although when named Justice Minister she had also attributed her new political prominence to her being a representative of what she called ‘Civil Society’.
In her first months in the position she was occupied with assembling the government’s new cabinet; observers found it noteworthy that she restricted the size of that body to 24 members.
Large by U.S. standards, the cabinet size nevertheless represented a reduction from the patronage-laden bodies of the days of one-party rule. As she told the PanAfrican News Agency, “We have to go to work now in order to achieve the goals President Wade has been nurturing for Senegal for many years now.”
Photo Credit: Justice.gouv.sn