Senegal inaugurated Bassirou Diomaye Faye as its new president on Tuesday, completing the previously little-known opposition figure’s dramatic ascent from prison to the palace in recent weeks. Faye was released from prison less than two weeks before the March 24 election, along with popular opposition figure and mentor Ousmane Sonko, following a political amnesty announced by outgoing President Macky Sall. It is the former tax inspector’s first time in office.
The election tested Senegal’s reputation as a stable democracy in West Africa, a region that has experienced coups and attempted coups. It followed months of unrest ignited by the arrests last year of Sonko and Faye and concerns that the president would seek a third term in office despite constitutional term limits. Rights groups said dozens were killed in the protests and about 1,000 were jailed.
At age 44, Faye is Senegal’s youngest president. He campaigned on promises to clean up corruption and better manage the country’s natural resources. His victory was seen as reflecting the will of young people frustrated with widespread unemployment and former colonial ruler France, seen by critics
to be using its relationship with Senegal to enrich itself.

In his first speech as president-elect, Faye promised to fight corruption and reform the economy.
A practicing Muslim from a small town, Faye has two wives, both of whom were present on Tuesday. Ahead of the election, he released a declaration of his assets to show transparency and called on other candidates to do the same. It listed a home in Dakar and land outside the capital and in his hometown. His bank accounts totaled roughly $6,600. According to the founder of the Senegalese think tank, the Afrkajom Center, Alioune Tine, the first major challenge for Faye is the formation of his government.
This will be the first concrete message he sends to the Senegalese people. The size, diversity and profiles will be analyzed with a fine-tooth comb, to see if they meet the demand for a break with the past. The new president was little known until Sonko, a popular opposition figure who came in third in the previous election in 2019, named him to run in his place after being barred from the election for a prior conviction.

Recommended for you