Serigne Mbaye Thiam on Diary Sow: “Nothing foreshadowed concern”


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Seemingly, Senegal and France are shaken by the temporary disappearance of Diary Sow, this brilliant Senegalese student in scientific preparatory class at Lycée Louis-le-Grand in Paris, whom we have not heard from since January 4 . The investigation is ongoing. Senegalese and French authorities are moving heaven and earth to find it, supported by the solidarity and the mobilization of Senegalese students in France but also personalities from all universes, literary, intellectual, political, etc. Godfather chosen by the late dad of Diary Sow, Serigne Mbaye Thiam, current Minister of Water and Sanitation and former Minister of Higher Education and Research then National Education of Senegal, is certainly the one of those who can best talk about the Senegalese student. Exclusively, he spoke to Point Afrique.

Senegal and France are very shaken by the temporary disappearance of Diary Sow, this brilliant student enrolled in prep at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand. Who is she really?

Serigne Mbaye Thiam: Diary Sow, as you so aptly put it, is a brilliant student. She was consecrated two years in a row, in 2018 and 2019, best student of Senegal in the general competition. She was trained at the scientific high school of excellence in Diourbel. It should just be noted that Diary is part of the first promotion of this high school created in 2016 by the Head of State, President Macky Sall.

She was also crowned Miss “Sciences” in 2017, a competition organized by the Ministry of National Education between the best second-year science girls to stimulate science learning among girls. She has always ranked major in her class and in almost all disciplines. So she had an exemplary education. She is passionate about reading and writing. The second child of a large family, Diary is also very close to his parents, especially his late father who was unfortunately called to God in April 2020.

Before being at the Ministry of Water and Sanitation, you first went to National Education. How did you spot her?

Paradoxically, Diary almost did not join the scientific high school of excellence of Diourbel which revealed it to the general public. The submission of his candidacy file had been wrongly considered late when it was an administrative negligence. It is therefore by regularization that she was able to participate in the entrance examination to this high school of excellence. She was ranked 4e at the entrance exam to this high school which only recruits 60 students across Senegal. Subsequently, she always found herself at the top of her class with excellent averages. It was in second class, when I had the first results from this new establishment and when I saw her speak in chastened French during a television report, that I spotted her. I already realized all the potential she had.

Afterwards, did you forge a close relationship to the point that you became his godfather?

Yes, but to be honest, it happened quite naturally. I followed Diary as I also followed other students. This personal, voluntary investment in assisting, advising and helping students with high potential but mostly from less privileged backgrounds, I did for many students long before even being a member of the government.

For me, these students must be supervised and well supported so as not to lose them. Some of them have finished their higher education and there are some of them whom I have helped to return to work in Senegal. So naturally I got interested in student Diary Sow until her own dad handed her over to me to be her coach, her mentor, which is perhaps more appropriate than godfather. Eventually, her whole family adopted me and saw me as a member. When his father died in April 2020 while Diary was in his first year of prep at Louis-le-Grand high school, his mother asked me to tell him the painful news.

When was the last time you had contact with her?

I spoke to Diary regularly, at least once a week. The last two times I had her on the phone was December 26, 2020 and extensively on the evening of 1is January ; I had received his New Year’s greeting message during the day. During this last conversation, we took stock of his exercises, his vacation homework and his choice of candidacy for the competitions which should start in April. Knowing that the pace in prep is very strong and the pressure enormous, I encouraged her as always. And nothing foreshadowed concern, let alone difficulties on his part. She seemed to be doing well.

What were his plans at that time?

I advised him to proceed by January 10 to the validation of his choice of candidacy for the competition instead of waiting for the deadline of January 12. She had not yet made any final choices but was confident even though she observed that the pace of the second year of preparation is even more sustained than that of last year. She seemed to be focused on her studies and ready to finish the school year and take the exams.

When was the last moment she had contact with her best friend?

As the investigation is ongoing, I am avoiding giving details. She does have a childhood friend who is in Toulouse where Diary has been for two days and not during all the Christmas holidays. I can only say that she left Toulouse to return to her residence in Paris. And it was in Paris that she was seen for the last time.

You are in contact with his family. We can imagine his anguish

These are very painful times, especially for Diary’s mom. I went to see her twice, in Malicounda, about 85 km from Dakar. Despite the anguish, fear and worry that weighed on her, she remained worthy. She also has the support of her whole family, from all over Senegal, I should say. I am in constant contact with his uncle residing in Île-de-France, who invests himself body and soul to find Diary.

Without interfering in the investigation, where are things currently at the level of mobilization in Senegal and France?

The mobilization is spontaneous and exceptional. Since the announcement of his disappearance, we have seen a surge of solidarity both in Senegal and in France. People are calling from everywhere just to show their support. Young people, students from here and elsewhere spontaneously invaded social networks with a single watchword: find Diary Sow safe and sound. The family thanks everyone.

Are you confident?

Absolutely. I am very confident. Considering all the diligence implemented by both the Senegalese and French authorities to find her, all the mobilization of the Senegalese and even beyond, I can only be confident. Our Diary will come back to us safe and sound. It is a collective wish accompanied by sincere and fervent prayers.


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