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President Faye appoints Ousmane Sonko as Prime Minister

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Senegal inaugurated its youngest elected leader, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, as president on Tuesday, which is a remarkable journey from prison to palace for the 44-year-old, who was previously little-known on the political stage.
Credit: Annika Hammerschlag/Bloomberg

On Tuesday, Senegal inaugurated its youngest elected leader, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, as president. The 44-year-old, who was previously little known on the political stage, made a remarkable journey from prison to the palace.

Faye’s ascent to power comes after a tumultuous period in Senegalese politics. Last month’s election was a litmus test for the nation’s reputation as a stable democracy in West Africa.

The region has been marred by coups and attempted coups in recent years, making Senegal’s democratic process all the more significant.

Just weeks before the election, Faye and his mentor, popular opposition figure Ousmane Sonko, were released under a political amnesty declared by outgoing President Macky Sall.

Their imprisonment had sparked widespread protests, fueled by concerns that Sall might seek a third term in office despite term limits. The demonstrations saw months of unrest, resulting in casualties and arrests.

Following his inauguration, Faye appointed his mentor and critical backer, Ousmane Sonko, as prime minister, his first appointment as President of Senegal.

Bassirou Diomaye Faye announced the appointment shortly after he was sworn into office on Tuesday. He pledged systemic change after years of turmoil under his predecessor, Macky Sall, the former president.

Before God and the Senegalese nation, I swear to faithfully fulfil the office of president of the Republic of Senegal,” Faye said.

He also vowed to “scrupulously observe the provisions of the constitution and the laws” and defend “the integrity of the territory and national independence and to spare no effort to achieve African unity.”

In his inaugural address, Faye paid tribute to those who lost their lives or were detained during the protests and vowed to steer Senegal towards greater sovereignty and prosperity.

“I am aware that the results of the elections express a profound desire for systemic change,” he stated.

Rights groups reported dozens killed and around 1,000 individuals detained during the protests, showing the intensity of the political climate in the country.

Faye, a former tax inspector, assumes his first elected office amidst widespread frustration among Senegal’s youth regarding the country’s trajectory.

This sentiment resonates across Africa, where a youthful population often feel marginalised by leaders accused of clinging to power for decades.

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