Senegalese lawyer Sidiki Kaba speaks on March 17, 2011 in Thies, a town east of Dakar, about the African Center for the Prevention and Resolution of Conflicts (CAPREC) and its care center, Victims of Violence Rehabilitated (Vivre), set up in 2001. The CAPREC/Vivre owes its existence to Kaba, the president of honour of the International Federation of Human Rights, and his compatriots, surgeon Bamba Diop and academic Mabassa Fall. The stated goal of the center is "to defend human rights and try to protect them" by means of education, assistance to victims of rights violations and torture and other physical assaults, by "psychological, medical and social rehabilitation." AFP PHOTO / Erick-Christian Ahounou

Dakar - Senegal's new Justice Minister Sidiki Kaba has ruled out legalising homosexuality in the deeply conservative Muslim country despite being a former leading campaigner for gay rights, reports said on Friday.

As head of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Kaba fought to reform a law outlawing gay relationships, but he told reporters in Dakar on Thursday he had dropped his opposition to prosecuting gays.

“I am a minister of justice who works in the context of a government and who expresses his views through those of the head of state which apply to all those who serve under him,” Kaba was quoted by media outlets as saying at a press briefing.

New Prime Minister Aminata Toure named the veteran campaigner justice minister after President Macky Sall appointed her and fired her predecessor, Abdoul Mbaye, and his cabinet without giving a reason on Sunday.

Kaba, who has a long history with the FIDH, having been elected as its chairman in 2001, called for the legalisation of homosexuality in a 2009 interview with television station France 24 which was picked up by several local media outlets.

“I was expressing (the position) of my organisation,” Kaba told local press on Thursday when asked about the quote.

Sall said during US President Barack Obama's visit to Dakar in June that while Senegal was a tolerant country, it was “not yet ready to decriminalise homosexuality”.

Under Senegalese law, anyone convicted of an “improper or unnatural act with a person of the same sex” faces up to five years in jail. - Sapa-AFP