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Bassirou Faye becomes youngest President of Senegal, unveils administration’s priorities

President Bassirou Diomaye Faye of Senegal Photos: AFP

*Forty-Four-year-old Bassirou Diomaye Faye, a left-wing pan-Africanist has been sworn in as the youngest President of Senegal, as he restates his administration’s priorities to include national reconciliation, easing cost-of-living crisis, restoration of ‘national sovereignty’, and fighting corruption in the country

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

Forty-Four-year-old Bassirou Diomaye Faye, a left-wing pan-Africanist, Tuesday, April 2, 2024, was sworn in as the youngest President of Senegal, after sweeping to a first-round victory on a pledge of radical reform 10 days after he was released from prison.

ConsumerConnect learnt President Faye, hitherto had not held any elected office but several African leaders, including Nigerian President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, attended his inauguration ceremony in Diamniadio, near Dakar, the Senegalese capital.

Faye stated at inauguration: “Before God and the Senegalese nation, I swear to faithfully fulfil the office of President of the Republic of Senegal,” Faye said before the gathered officials.

The new President also vowed to “scrupulously observe the provisions of the Constitution and the laws” and to defend “the integrity of the territory and national independence, and to spare no effort to achieve African unity.”

However, the formal handover of power with outgoing President Macky Sall was expected to hold in the presidential palace in Dakar, agency report said.

Faye was among a group of political opponents freed from prison 10 days before the March 24 presidential ballot under an amnesty announced by Sall, who had tried to delay the vote.

Incidentally, Faye’s campaign was launched while he was still in detention, according to report.

The former tax inspector becomes the West African country’s fifth President since Independence from France 1960, and first to openly admit to a polygamous marriage.

Working with his populist mentor Ousmane Sonko, who was barred from the election, Faye declared their priorities in his victory speech: national reconciliation, easing a cost-of-living crisis and fighting corruption.

The anti-establishment leader has vowed to restore national sovereignty over key assets such as the oil, gas and fishing sectors.

On national currency

Faye wants to leave the regional CFA Franc, which he sees as a French colonial legacy, and to invest more in agriculture with the aim of reaching food self-sufficiency for the Senegalese people.

He, however, has also sought to reassure investors that Senegal “will remain a friendly country and a sure and reliable ally for any partner that engages with us in virtuous, respectful and mutually productive cooperation.”

After three tense years and deadly unrest in the traditionally stable nation, his democratic victory was hailed from Washington to Paris, via the African Union (AU) and the European Union (EU).

From Washington, D.C., US Secretary of State Antony Blinken Monday, April 1 spoke with Faye on telephone, and “underscored the United States’ strong interest in deepening the partnership” between their two countries, the State Department said.

On the international stage, the new President of Senegal seeks to bring military-run Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger back into the fold of the regional Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) bloc, report stated.

A new generation of politicians

Commonly known as Diomaye, or “the honourable one” in the local Serer language, he won the election with 54.3 percent of the votes.

It was a remarkable turnaround after the government had dissolved the Pastef Party he founded with Sonko 2014, with Sall postponing the election.

Faye, a practising Muslim from a humble background with two wives and four children, represents a new generation of youthful politicians.

He has voiced admiration for US ex-President Barack Obama and South African anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela.

However, Faye and the government he must unveil will quickly face major challenges.

He does not have a majority in the National Assembly, and will have to look to build alliances to pass new laws, or call a legislative election, which will become an option from mid-November.

Report further indicates the biggest challenge for the new administration may be creating enough jobs in a country, in which 75 percent of the 18-million population is aged under 35 and the unemployment rate is officially 20 percent.

Several youths have considered the future so bleak they have risked their lives to join the waves of migrants trying to reach Europe.

Sall, meanwhile, has been appointed special envoy of the Paris Pact for People and Planet, created to combat poverty, protect the planet and support vulnerable countries, report said.

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