Senegal: From Prisoner to President – Bassirou Diomaye Faye to Become Senegal’s Youngest President

Only two weeks ago, Bassirou Diomaye Faye was sitting in a prison cell. Faye was arrested almost a year ago for “spreading false news, contempt of court, and defamation of a constituted body. He is now set to be inaugurated as Senegal’s president.

When his candidature was announced, many believed he didn’t stand a chance.

Yet, at the age of 44, he is set to become Senegal’s and Africa’s youngest head of state.

His main rival in the presidential election, former prime minister Amadou Ba, recognised Faye’s victory on Monday.

“In choosing me as president, the Senegalese people have made the choice of rupture”, Faye said in his first speech as future head of state of Senegal, on Monday evening in Dakar’s Radisson hotel.

Sénégalaises, SénégalaisMes chers CompatriotesHôtes étrangersQui vivez parmi nousLa tenue de l’élection présidentielle que nous venons de vivre consacre avant tout la victoire du peuple Sénégalais pic.twitter.com/SLsU7ZgVco— Bassirou Diomaye Faye Officiel (@DiomayeFaye) March 26, 2024

His mentor, opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, endorsed him as his replacement only a few months ago, after he was judged to be ineligible for the office.

In twelve presidential elections based on universal suffrage in Senegal, this is the first time that an opposition candidate has won in the first round.

Please remember that’s 👉🏿Bassirou Diomaye Faye win the elections because his presidential programme of Pan-Africanism have resonated well among the Senegalese. pic.twitter.com/176TsmHpFX— K.Diallo ☭ (@nyeusi_waasi) March 25, 2024

‘The same project’

Sonko and Faye embarked on a whirlwind campaign a few weeks ago when they were finally freed. Both are fierce critics of President Macky Sall.

They were most often welcomed by crowds chanting “Sonko mooy Diomaye, Diomaye mooy Sonko“, or “Sonko is Diomaye, Diomaye is Sonko”.

“Bassirou is me,” Sonko indeed said of his number two.

From a modest rural background, Faye, who is a Muslim, appeared at his final rally alongside his two wives clad in his trademark wide-sleeved boubou robe.

He had followed in Sonko’s footsteps by sitting Senegal’s administration and magistrate exams, before taking over as head of a trade union from Sonko.

He has even named one of his sons Ousmane.

Together, they founded the Pastef political party in 2014, which authorities dissolved last year.

The two also spent time together in the same prison.

“They are two sides of the same coin with two different styles,” said Moustapha Sarr, a trainer of former Pastef activists.

“Of course, we would have preferred [the candidate] to be Ousmane Sonko, but I have confidence in Diomaye because Sonko put his trust in him,” said Mourtalla Diouf, 27, from the southern Casamance region. “They share the same [vision].”

Tax inspector

The former tax inspector was put in prison last year, as many members of Sonko’s party, Pastef, dissolved as he was himself arrested and put on trial.

Faye has never held elected office.

He promised the Senegalese profound change and left-wing Pan-Africanism.

The Remarkable Journey of Bassirou Diomaye Faye: From Prisoner to PresidentOne thing stands out about Senegal President Elect Diomaye Faye: LOYALTY.1. Rising from relative anonymity to become Senegal’s president. 2. Spent time in prison before his political ascent.3…. pic.twitter.com/Qy8SCMis6w— Sam Terriz (@Terriz_Sam) March 26, 2024

Presenting himself as part of a new generation of politicians, he believes in national sovereignty, a fairer distribution of wealth, and reform of what he sees as a corrupt justice system.

He also vowed to renegotiate oil and fishing contracts, and raised the controversial issue of a new national currency to replace the CFA franc by a common currency for the whole West African group Ecowas.

This measure denounced by his opponent in the presidential elections , Amadou Ba.

Prison time

Presenting himself as part of a new generation of politicians, he believes in national sovereignty, a fairer distribution of wealth, and reform of what he sees as a corrupt justice system.

He also vowed to renegotiate oil and fishing contracts, and raised the controversial issue of a new national currency to replace the CFA franc by a common currency for the whole West African group Ecowas.

This measure denounced by his opponent in the presidential elections, Amadou Ba.

Sonko and Faye were only released from prison 12 days ago, on 14 March.

In April last year, Faye was charged with several offences, including contempt of court, after broadcasting a message critical of the judiciary in legal cases against Sonko.

Sonko joined Faye in prison in July on charges including calling for insurrection.

The opposition’s protests played a role in outgoing President Macky Sall’s decision to postpone the election, plunging the West African country into its worst political crisis in decades.

Immediately after casting his vote on Sunday, he called on the Senegalese people to “calm down” and “return once and for all to the serenity that has been seriously disrupted in recent months and years”.

(with AFP)

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