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Faith Nyasuguta

In his first move as President, Bassirou Diomaye Faye of Senegal appointed Ousmane Sonko, a prominent politician and staunch supporter, as the prime minister on Tuesday.

Sonko, known for his opposition to former President Macky Sall, enjoys popularity among the youth in the West African nation. However, he was disqualified from the March 24 presidential election due to a defamation conviction, which he denied. 

Running under the joint campaign slogan “Diomaye is Sonko,” Sonko encouraged his supporters to vote for his close ally, Faye, who secured victory with over 54% of the vote in the first round.

Senegal celebrated the inauguration of  Faye as its new president on Tuesday, marking a remarkable journey from political opposition to the presidential palace for the once lesser-known figure.

Faye during inauguration /Courtesy/

Faye’s ascension to power unfolded swiftly following his release from prison just prior to the March 24 election, alongside his mentor, the popular opposition figure Sonko. Their release came as part of a political amnesty announced by outgoing President Macky Sall, paving the way for Faye’s inaugural term as an elected official.

For us, this marks the culmination of a long struggle for democracy and the rule of law,” remarked Aissata Sagna, a factory worker who actively supported Faye’s campaign. “Despite the losses we’ve endured during the demonstrations, today is a day of celebration.”

The election served as a litmus test for Senegal’s democratic stability in West Africa, amid mounting tensions sparked by the arrests of Sonko and Faye, and concerns over presidential term limits. The unrest, which erupted into protests, claimed numerous lives and resulted in the detention of around 1,000 individuals, according to human rights organizations.

Senegal President Faye (left) alongside appointed prime minister Sonko / Peninsula Qatar/

Faye, aged 44, campaigned on platforms promising anti-corruption measures and improved management of the nation’s natural resources. His victory resonated strongly with the youth demographic, disillusioned by high unemployment rates and critical of Senegal’s ties with its former colonial ruler, France, perceived by some as exploitative.

These sentiments echo across many African nations, where youthful populations grapple with entrenched leadership and economic challenges.

In his inaugural address, President Faye pledged to combat corruption and implement economic reforms. A devout Muslim from a rural background, Faye made transparency a focal point by publicly disclosing his assets before the election, including properties and modest bank account balances.

“The immediate challenge lies in the formation of Faye’s government,” observed Alioune Tine, founder of the Senegalese think tank Afrikajom Center. “It will serve as a critical indicator of his commitment to breaking from the past.”

Despite his previous obscurity, Faye’s political profile surged after Sonko, prevented from contesting due to a prior conviction, nominated him as his replacement. While Sonko’s role in the new administration remains uncertain, he is anticipated to maintain a significant presence.

Faye’s own legal entanglements, including defamation charges, underscored broader concerns about political suppression. Sonko’s supporters allege that his legal battles were orchestrated to obstruct his candidacy.

Amidst the political turbulence, Sall’s decision to forgo a third term was followed by a controversial election postponement in February, subsequently overturned by the constitutional court. The delayed election finally took place in March, culminating in Faye’s inauguration.

As Senegal welcomes a new era under Faye’s leadership, the nation navigates a pivotal juncture characterized by political transition and aspirations for democratic renewal.


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Faith Nyasuguta

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