Senegal: Turmoil Gives Way To A New President

What a difference three weeks can make. That was the time it took for Bassirou Diomaye Faye to go from prison to the presidency of Senegal.

The 44-year-old former tax inspector was sworn in last month after a period of political turmoil spurred by fears that outgoing President Macky Sall, who had been in power for 12 years, might seek a controversial third term. Faye, who was arrested in April 2023 and detained without trial on trumped-up charges of inciting insurrection, was released 10 days before the presidential ballot.

A little-known figure outside his party, African Patriots of Senegal for Work, Ethics and Fraternity (PASTEF), Faye campaigned as a stand-in for the movement’s leader, Ousmane Sonko, who in addition to being detained had been barred from running in elections. With over 54% of the vote, Faye became the first opposition candidate to win an election in the first round since Senegal gained independence in 1960, and is the country’s youngest-ever president.

Before taking up the role of Sonko’s lieutenant and PASTEF’s secretary general, Faye was a political unknown. Born into a modest family of farmers in the remote village of Ndiaganiao, he received a master’s degree in law from Dakar’s Cheikh Anta Diop University. A devoted Muslim, he has two wives and four children. Ahead of the election, he called on all candidates to disclose their assets; in his name, he listed a home in Dakar and some land outside the capital and in his hometown. He held about $6,600 in his bank accounts.

Faye’s goals are matched by the formidable challenges he faces.

During the campaign, he promised to tackle corruption, reduce presidential powers, reintroduce the vice presidency, and restore the integrity and independence of the executive and the judiciary. A Pan-African leftist, he has also pledged to create a new national currency to replace the CFA franc and renegotiate oil and gas contracts with foreign companies. Faye’s biggest hurdle will be creating enough jobs in a nation where the combined rate of unemployment and underemployment is around 30% and the median age of the roughly 19 million population is 18. Already, however, he has made his name as the tax inspector who successfully defended Senegal’s democratic institutions.    

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post