Africa’s Youngest President Takes Office, Promising ‘Systemic Change’



Nonetheless reeling from a whirlwind marketing campaign, younger individuals in Senegal threw jackets over their worn election T-shirts on Tuesday to attend the inauguration of an opposition politician who went from political prisoner to president in lower than three weeks.

Their new chief, Bassirou Diomaye Faye — at 44, Africa’s youngest elected president — took the oath of workplace promising “systemic change,” and paying homage to the many individuals killed, injured, and imprisoned within the yearslong lead-up to the West African nation’s election.

“I’ll all the time have in mind the heavy sacrifices made in order to by no means disappoint you,” Mr. Faye mentioned, addressing an enormous auditorium during which African heads of state and dignitaries sat on the entrance. From the again, a whole bunch of supporters of Mr. Faye and his highly effective backer, the opposition chief Ousmane Sonko, shouted for pleasure.

It was the fruits of months of drama, after the previous president, Macky Sall, canceled the election with simply weeks to go, citing irregularities on the constitutional council — after which, beneath intense home and worldwide strain, agreed to carry it in any case.

Mr. Sall’s handpicked candidate was resoundingly overwhelmed by Mr. Faye, a tax inspector and political rookie who acquired greater than 54 % of the vote, regardless of having only 10 days of freedom in which to campaign. He had been jailed on prices of defamation and contempt of court docket, and was awaiting trial when Mr. Sall introduced the adoption of an amnesty legislation and was launched.

“You’re Senegal’s uncontested and dazzling selection,” mentioned the president of the constitutional council, Mamadou Badio Camara, presiding over the inauguration.

However Mr. Faye was not the one politician that Senegal had successfully endorsed. Mr. Sonko, the person whose assist helped get Mr. Faye elected, was sitting within the second row.

“Thanks, Sonko, thanks,” yelled his supporters at key moments in Tuesday’s ceremony.

Mr. Sonko, till now Senegal’s foremost opposition chief, was additionally in jail till three weeks in the past, barred from working for president himself after convictions on prices of defamation and “corruption of youth” in relation to accusations brought by a young massage parlor employee.

When he was launched, he instantly went on the marketing campaign path with Mr. Faye, telling his supporters {that a} vote for Mr. Faye was a vote for him.

Mr. Faye made no point out in his speech of Mr. Sonko, who minimize a low profile in a black hat and tunic. However Mr. Sonko was a continuing presence. He hobnobbed with the African presidents who waited for the ceremony to start in an antechamber of a convention heart in Diamniadio, a brand new metropolis nonetheless beneath development and a pet venture of Mr. Sall.

Then, within the hangar-like room the place Mr. Faye would take his oath, Mr. Sonko took his place within the second row, simply behind the 2 first women — wives of the polygamous new president. And Mr. Sonko acquired the most important cheers of the day, each time his face appeared on the massive screens on the entrance of the auditorium.

A lot cheering additionally rang out for the army president of Guinea, and the representatives of Mali and Burkina Faso, three West African nations whose governments have been overthrown in coups in recent times and at the moment are dominated by juntas. The rhetoric of these juntas — centered on sovereignty from France, the previous colonial energy perceived by many West Africans as persevering with to meddle of their affairs — mirrors that of Mr. Sonko and Mr. Faye.

“The youth of Senegal is connecting with the youth of these nations, over these problems with sovereignty,” the president’s uncle, additionally named Diomaye Faye, mentioned in an interview on Tuesday.

Mr. Faye and Mr. Sonko have pledged to drop or change the phrases of the CFA, the regional foreign money backed by France, and renegotiate Senegal’s contracts with foreign-owned firms to extract newly-discovered oil and fuel.

In his speech, Mr. Faye burdened that Senegal would stay open to relations with different nations which might be “respectful of our sovereignty, in line with our individuals’s aspirations, and in a mutually successful partnership.”

After the swearing-in, a motorcade carried him to the presidential palace. Final week, Mr. Sall had welcomed him and Mr. Sonko, his former arch-rivals, in a stiff however determinedly pleasant assembly — official pictures of which have been later given to the media.

On Tuesday, Mr. Sall, a two-term president who had served for 12 years, welcomed Mr. Faye as soon as extra, who arrived this time with a presidential guard.

After sitting chatting for some time and handing over the necessary paperwork, Mr. Sall climbed right into a Toyota, pulling out of the palace gates and leaving for good.


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