Senegal's Faye Appoints Sonko, Opposition Figure, As PM

Bassirou Diomaye Faye, a progressive advocate for pan-African unity, assumed office as Senegal‘s newest president on Tuesday, vowing to usher in sweeping reforms following a turbulent period marked by violence.

He also revealed his choice for prime minister in the person of Ousmane Sonko, a prominent opposition leader and his trusted mentor.

Despite his lack of political experience, Faye, aged 44, captured the nation’s attention by securing victory in the first round of elections. His pledge of radical reform resonated strongly with voters, propelling him from prison to presidency in a mere 10 days, marking a remarkable political journey.

With the eyes of numerous officials and African heads of state upon him, Faye administered the presidential oath at an exhibition center situated in the modern township of Diamniadio, adjacent to Dakar.

Upon concluding the ceremony, Faye’s motorcade made its triumphant return to the capital, where throngs of jubilant residents lined the streets, eagerly welcoming their new leader as he made his way to the presidential palace.

As a symbolic act of transition, Macky Sall, the former president, handed over the key to the presidential headquarters to Faye before departing from the palace, symbolizing the transfer of authority.

“Before God and the Senegalese nation, I swear to faithfully fulfil the office of President of the Republic of Senegal,” Faye had said earlier in the day.

Just hours later, his new administration appointed firebrand opposition leader Sonko prime minister.

“Mr Ousmane Sonko is named prime minister,” said Oumar Samba Ba, the general secretary of the presidency, as he read out a decree on the public television station RTS.

Sonko, 49, was at the centre of a two-year stand-off with the state that triggered bouts of deadly unrest.

He was disqualified from running in the most recent race and picked Faye as his replacement on the presidential ballot.

The former tax inspector is Senegal’s fifth president since independence from France in 1960 and the first to openly admit to a polygamous marriage.
“I am aware that the results of the ballot box express a profound desire for systemic change,” Faye said in a brief speech after taking the presidential oath.

“Under my leadership, Senegal will be a country of hope, a peaceful country with an independent judiciary and a strengthened democracy,” he added.

Faye and Sonko were among a group of opposition politicians freed from prison 10 days before the March 24 presidential ballot under an amnesty announced by former president Macky Sall, who had tried to delay the vote.

Read also: Senegal’s Youngest President, Faye, Takes Oath Of Office

“I have painful memories of the martyrs of Senegalese democracy, the amputees, the wounded and the former prisoners,” Faye said Tuesday, referring to the past three years of political unrest that left dozens dead and hundreds arrested.

“I will always bear in mind the heavy sacrifices made in order never to disappoint you,” he added.

Faye also reiterated to foreign partners “Senegal’s openness to trade that respects our sovereignty and meets the aspirations of our people, in a mutually beneficial partnership”.

Commonly known as Diomaye, or “the honourable one”, his promise of radical change won the election with 54.3 percent of the vote.

He has also committed to regaining control of vital resources such as the oil, gas, and fishing sectors to bolster national sovereignty.

Hydrocarbon production is slated to commence in Senegal later this year.

Faye also seeks to substitute the CFA franc, seen as a remnant of French colonialism, with a new unified regional currency. Furthermore, he aims to bolster agricultural investments to attain food self-reliance.

In the wake of three tumultuous years in the usually stable country, his democratic victory has been lauded on the international stage, earning commendation from Washington, Paris, the African Union, and the European Union.

During his address on Tuesday, he emphasized the urgent need for “greater solidarity” among African nations to confront the pressing security challenges collectively.

Representatives from the military administrations in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea all made their presence felt in Diamniadio, with Guinean president General Mamady Doumbouya among them.

Captain Ibrahim Traore, the leader of Burkina Faso, expressed on X (formerly Twitter) that Faye’s presidency symbolized the dawn of a “new era” for Africa, characterized by freedom and sovereignty.

He also stated his commitment to working together on revamping sub-regional and international collaboration.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres lauded the inauguration as evidence of the Senegalese people’s resilience in asserting their voting rights

Africa Today News, New York

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