Senegalese President Bassirou Diomaye Faye: From Prison to Office

Senegalese President-elect Bassirou Diomaye Faye, who rose from modest beginnings and never held national elected office, beat the odds by promising radical change and receiving strong guidance from a charismatic mentor.

Ten days after being released from prison, Diomaye—a nickname that translates to “the honorable one” in the Serer language—won the March 24 presidential election with 54.3 percent of the vote.

His modest demeanor, anti-establishment stance, and support from opposition leader Ousmane Sonko enabled him to defeat the candidate of the ruling coalition handily in the first round.

Following Senegal’s 1960 independence from France, 44-year-old Faye will be the country’s fifth and youngest president when he takes office on Tuesday.

Faye stated his aims as “national reconciliation,” “fighting corruption,” and relieving the severe cost-of-living issue in a victory address delivered in both French and Wolof.

With the fishing, oil, and gas industries all under his gun barrel, he has pledged to restore national sovereignty through left-wing pan-Africanism, which he alleges has been cheaply sold off.

In place of the CFA franc, he is considering the creation of a new national currency and intends to make significant investments in the industrial and agricultural sectors to offset the officially reported 20 percent unemployment rate.

On the global scene, Faye aims to reestablish alliances for mutual gain and reintegrate military-run Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger into the ECOWAS (The Economic Community of West African States) regional bloc.

Sonko’s backup strategy
The well-liked but legally troubled Sonko, who supported Faye after being disqualified from running for president himself, has eclipsed the former tax inspector.

After Faye was disqualified, Sonko, who came in third in the 2019 presidential election and became involved in a protracted legal struggle with the state, installed Faye as his successor and watched his plan through to completion.

In 2014, they jointly established the political party Pastef, which was dissolved by the authorities the previous year.

After being granted amnesty on March 14, the allies set out on a fast-paced campaign tour, much to the excitement of large crowds who sang “Sonko mooy Diomaye, Diomaye mooy Sonko,” or “Sonko is Diomaye, Diomaye is Sonko.”

Former Pastef activist Moustapha Sarr, who trains new activists, described them as “two sides of the same coin” with distinct techniques.

Reggae and mixed martial arts
Faye represents a new generation of Senegalese politicians. She hails from a modest rural background and is a practicing Muslim with two marriages. Faye frequently adorns a characteristic wide-sleeved boubou robe.

In the far-off village of Ndiaganiao, 150 kilometers (93 miles) from Dakar, the capital, the father-of-four was born into a humble farming family without access to tarmac roads or a health center.

Though Faye says he frequently goes to the community, he left Ndiaganiao to attend Dakar’s esteemed National Administration School.

Mor Sarr, one of Diomaye’s closest friends, described him as a small shepherd who kept an eye on his goats in the pastures.

Helping Khady Diouf with home chores, Faye “has always been very close to his mother,” Sarr continued.

In addition to being a fan of psychological literature and French former football player Zinedine Zidane, Faye is an admirer of former US President Barack Obama and South Africa’s anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, according to Sarr.

He also mentioned swimming, mixed martial arts, and reggae music as some of his hobbies. He also likes Real Madrid, the legendary football team from Spain.

Diomaye Faye, the uncle of the future president, described his nephew as “a good boy” who watches his behavior and would be aware of the realities of the nation.


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