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Senegal’s new president promises “systemic change” and sovereignty

Photo: John Wessels Agence France-Presse Bassirou Diomaye Faye (right) and Ghana's President Nana Akufo-Addo (left) after the swearing-in of Senegal's new president, near Dakar, April 2, 2024.

Laurent Lozano – Agence France-Presse in Dakar

11:50 a.m.

  • Africa

Left-wing pan-Africanist Bassirou Diomaye Faye promised “systemic change”, sovereignty and appeasement after years of agitation by becoming Senegal's fifth president on Tuesday after a whirlwind rise.

Mr. Faye, 44, confident in words and appearance in a blue suit and tie, took the oath of office in front of hundreds of Senegalese officials and several heads of state and African leaders at the Exhibition Center in the new town of Diamniadio, near from Dakar.

Then he returned to the capital, a horse guard clearing the way for his procession of cars among hundreds of Dakar residents who came to greet him along the roads leading to the gates of the presidential palace.

There, his predecessor Macky Sall, after brief and cordial greetings, symbolically handed him the key to the seat of the presidency before going through the gates in the opposite direction.

Mr. Faye, never elected before, becomes the West African country's youngest president since independence in 1960, less than three weeks after being released from prison.

After three years of tensions and a final pre-electoral crisis in 2024, his advent accepted by all at the end of an express campaign “is almost a miracle”, said the president of the Constitutional Council Mamadou Badio Camara before receiving his oath.

With his right hand raised, Mr. Faye swore, “before God and before the Senegalese Nation, to faithfully fulfill the office of President of the Republic of Senegal.”

Breaking promise

In a brief speech, Mr. Faye said he was “aware” that his large victory in the first round of the presidential election on March 24 expressed “a deep desire for systemic change.” “Senegal under my teaching will be a country of hope, a peaceful country with independent justice and a strengthened democracy,” he said.

He spoke of the years of unrest that preceded his election, resulting in dozens of deaths and hundreds of arrests. He assured that he would keep in mind the sacrifices of the “martyrs of democracy […] so as never to disappoint you”.

Mr. Faye succeeds for five years Macky Sall, 62, who led the country of 18 million inhabitants for 12 years and maintained strong relations with the West and France while diversifying partnerships.

The promise of rupture, the anointing of his popular mentor Ousmane Sonko, present in the front rows on Tuesday, and the apparent humility of this personality from a modest and educated background led him to a resounding victory with 54.28% of the votes.

Mr. Faye, a senior tax administration official who has quietly risen through the ranks in Mr. Sonko's shadow, has listed lowering the cost of living, the fight against corruption and national reconciliation as his priorities. Its program highlights the requirement for sovereignty.

He said on Tuesday that he heard “clearly the voice of the uninhibited elites who say loud and clear our aspiration for more sovereignty, development and well-being” in Africa. He reiterated to the attention of foreign partners “Senegal’s openness to exchanges respectful of our sovereignty” in “mutually winning” partnerships.

Mr. Faye's program states his intention to exit the CFA franc, to renegotiate or reconsider contracts with foreign companies for the exploitation of oil and gas which should begin this year, as well as mining and fishing agreements.

Political and social front

Nicknamed Diomaye(“the honorable” in Serer), Mr. Faye is a practicing Muslim, married to two women present at his inauguration – he is the first polygamous Senegalese president – ​​and has four children. The man with the youthful face embodies a new generation of young politicians.

Admirer of former American President Barack Obama and the South African hero of the anti-apartheid struggle Nelson Mandela, he calls himself a “left” pan-Africanist.

He wants to work for the return, in the Community of West African States ECOWAS, of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, led by juntas which broke with France and turned towards Russia . The coup regimes of Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea sent their representatives to Diamniadio, including the Guinean president, General Mamadi Doumbouya.

Mr. Faye highlighted the scale of the security challenges facing many African countries and which “requires us to have more solidarity”.

Brought to power by a desire for change, Mr. Faye faces significant challenges. His concrete plans remain unclear, as does the place given to Mr. Sonko.

He must first appoint a government.

It is particularly expected on the employment front, in a country where 75% of the population is under 35 and where the unemployment rate is officially 20%, pushing young people, more and more numerous, fleeing poverty and undertaking a perilous journey towards Europe.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116