Boye, Madior 1940(?)–

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Madior Boye 1940(?)

Senegalese prime minister

At a Glance


Madior Boye was named prime minister by Senegal president Abdoulaye Wade in March of 2001. One of only a handful of women ever to become a head of state on the African continent, Boye was indeed a pathbreaker in predominantly Islamic Senegal, with its long tradition of male domination in familial affairs and its historical adherence to such institutions as polygamy. But 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 longstanding 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.

In a press conference held after she was named prime minister Boye refused to disclose her age, but she is reported to have been born in 1940. Africans in general and women in particular seldom had the chance to pursue higher education at the time, but Boye attended and graduated from the Senegals flagship educational institution, the University of Dakar. She came of age in the first flush of excitement surrounding Senegals 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 lawin effect to become one of the builders of the young nations 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 countrys central courts in the countrys 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. Boye was active in a number of legal organizations, serving as president and vice-president of the International Federation of Women in Legal Careers and founding the Federation of African Lawyers. She also found time to raise two children. Her highest legal post was as an adviser to the countrys Supreme Court of Appealroughly 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 Africas 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 countrys coast. Becoming independent from France in 1960, Senegal, like other African countries,

At a Glance

Born Madior Boye ca. 1940 in Senegal. Married, with two children. Education: B.A., University of Dakar, Senegal; law degree with honors from the National Center for Judiciary Studies, Paris, France, 1969. Politics: Independent.

Career: served as prosecuting attorney for Senegalese government; became vice president, Dakar Regional Court; served as appeals court judge in Senegalese capital of Dakar; became adviser to Senegals Supreme Court of Appeal; became staff lawyer, Occidental Banking Company of Africa, 1990; named Minister of Justice and Keeper of the Seals in reform government of President Abdoulaye Wade, 2000; named Prime Minister on an interim basis, March 2001; named to full term as Prime Minister, May 2001.

Member: Served as president and vice president, International Federation of Women in Legal Careers; founder and president, Federation of African Jurists; founding member, Moussa Diop Foundation of Assistance to Psychiatric Hospitals.

Addresses: c/o Embassy of the Republic of Senegal, 2112 Wyoming NW, Washington, D.C. 20008.

experimented with socialism. The drive toward a centralized economic system was led by the countrys 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 winner of Senegals presidency was Opposition Party candidate Abdoulaye Wade, who looked to assemble a cabinet independent of established interests. For the post of Justice Minister and Keeper of the Seals he settled on Boye, who was affiliated with no political party and was widely viewed as impartial. A year later, in March of 2001, Wade elevated Boye to the post of prime minister after a disagreement with his longtime ally and the previous holder of the post, Moustapha Niasse. The news website,, summed up part of her reputation when it referred to her as Wades 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. Boye received the nickname Madame Tape-Dur, which might be translated from French (Senegals official language) as Mrs. Hard Slap. 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 Wades Democratic Senegal Party remained a minority in the countrys legislature.

Obviously, Boyes appointment marked a leap forward for Senegalese women. An Islamic country since the eleventh century, Senegal grew as a nation within traditions marked by male domination. One of many issues was womens 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. She was appointed in March of 2001 as Niasses replacement and in May of that year named by Wade to a full term in office. In her first months in the position she was occupied with assembling the governments 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.



Jet, March 26, 2001, p. 12.

Online (Panafrican News Agency)


Panafrican New Agency, Daily Newswire, March 4 and March 9, 2001; reproduced on Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe, and Radio France International, broadcast of March 4, 2001; reproduced and translated on website

James M. Manheim