French President Emmanuel Macron has appointed his Senegalese-born media advisor as government spokeswoman, one of three new faces for his cabinet as it gears up for the European Parliament elections next month.
Sibeth Ndiaye, a 39-year-old born in Dakar, only obtained French citizenship in 2016 while working as a communications advisor for Macron’s presidential campaign.
She replaces Benjamin Griveaux, whose resignation last week came ahead of a run for Paris mayor next year.
“France has given me a lot. Today, it’s my turn to give something back,” Ndiaye said at a handover ceremony in Paris on Monday, praising her parents for helping her and her sisters “break through glass ceilings”.
After growing up with a politician father and a mother who was president of Senegal’s Constitutional Council, Ndiaye moved to Paris to study at university and became a leftwing student activist before joining the Socialist Party in 2002.
“Her nomination is a strong endorsement of diversity in a high-profile job, a promotion and a sign of the president’s trust,” Philippe Grangeon, one of Macron’s top advisers, told French daily Le Monde.
Ndiaye gained notoriety after a documentary of Macron’s grassroots campaign was released shortly after his sweeping win of the presidency in May 2017.
The film, “Behind the Scenes of a Victory,” shows an outspoken Ndiaye who doesn’t hesitate to harangue reporters over what she considers unfavourable coverage.
Later in 2017 French news weekly L’Express reported that she had said she was “perfectly ready to lie to protect the president”, though she later denied making the statement.
Ndiaye is a relative rarity as a black woman in a French government. Rama Yade, also born in Senegal, held several ministry positions in president Nicolas Sarkozy’s government. Christiane Taubira of French Guiana was justice minister under ex-president Francois Hollande.
The three new faces in the government are all aged under 40 and keep Macron’s pledge for a gender-balanced cabinet intact.
Cedric O, a 36-year-old former treasurer for Macron’s campaign whose father is South Korean, has replaced digital affairs minister Mounir Mahjoubi, who is also planning to compete for the Paris mayor job.
The reshuffle was prompted by the departure of European Affairs Minister Nathalie Loiseau to head Macron’s Republic on the Move list for the European Parliament vote on May 23-26.
Her job, which saw her handle the tricky Brexit dossier, was taken by Amelie de Montchalin, 33, a Republic on the Move lawmaker heavily involved in drafting the French budget.
“Working on European matters will require plenty of combativeness and plenty of energy,” she told BFM television on Sunday.
In total 10 members of Macron’s government have quit their posts so far in his term, a relatively high turnover after less than two years in office compared to previous presidencies.
In October, Gerard Collomb, one of the most experienced politicians in Macron’s camp, unexpectedly quit as interior minister.
That came just weeks after the popular environment minister Nicolas Hulot resigned without warning, criticising Macron’s green credentials.