The youngest president of Senegal, the left-wing pan-Africanist Bassirou Diomaye Faye, elected on the promise of breaking with the system in place, was sworn in on Tuesday April 2. Mr. Faye, never elected before, at the age of 44 became the country’s fifth president since independence in 1960.

“Before God and before the Senegalese Nation, I swear to faithfully fulfill the office of President of the Republic of Senegal, to observe as well as to scrupulously observe the provisions of the Constitution and the laws,” declared Mr. Faye, his hand right raised, in front of hundreds of Senegalese officials and several heads of state and African leaders at the Exhibition Center in the new town of Diamniadio, near Dakar.

Mr. Faye succeeds for five years Macky Sall, 62, who led the country of 18 million inhabitants for twelve years and maintained strong relations with the West and France.

Several heads of state, including the Nigerian Bola Ahmed Tinubu, current president of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Mauritanian Mohamed Ould Ghazouani, the Gambian Adama Barrow, the Guinean Mamadi Doumbouya and the Bissau-Guinean Umaro Sissoco Embalo were announced. Ivorian Vice-President Tiémoko Meyliet Koné, Rwandan Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente and the president of the body serving as Parliament in Mali, Malick Diaw, were also expected. The transfer of power between MM. Sall and Faye will then take place at the presidential palace in Dakar.

This alternation at the polls, the third in the history of Senegal, marks the end of a three-year standoff between Mr. Sall and the winning duo of the presidential election of March 24: Mr. Diomaye Faye and the one who, disqualified, dubbed him, Ousmane Sonko.

A new generation of politicians

Nicknamed “Diomaye” (“the honorable”, in Serer), Mr. Diomaye Faye is a practicing Muslim, married to two wives – he is the first polygamous Senegalese president – ​​and has four children. The man with the youthful face embodies a new generation of young politicians.

The promise of rupture, the anointing of Ousmane Sonko and the apparent humility of this personality from a modest and educated background led him to a resounding victory in the first round of the presidential election with 54.28% of the votes , just ten days after his release from prison. Hailed by Paris, Washington and the African Union, his election, celebrated by jubilant crowds, was preceded by three years of tensions and unrest which left dozens of people dead.

Senegal, known as an island of stability in West Africa, went through a new crisis in February when President Macky Sall decreed the postponement of the presidential election, deepening mistrust between part of the population and its leaders. An admirer of former American President Barack Obama but also of the South African hero of the anti-apartheid struggle Nelson Mandela, Mr. Diomaye Faye calls himself a “left” pan-Africanist and advocates the rebalancing of international partnerships.

Form alliances

Senegal will remain an ally “for any partner who will engage, with [the country], in virtuous, respectful and mutually productive cooperation,” he said after his election. He wants to work for the return to ECOWAS of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, Sahelian countries led by juntas which broke with the former French colonial power and turned towards Russia.

This senior tax administration official, who discreetly rose through the ranks in the shadow of Mr. Sonko, mentioned his priority projects after his victory: “lowering the cost of living,” “fighting corruption” and “national reconciliation.”

Brought to power by the Senegalese desire for change, he will have to face significant challenges. His plans remain unclear, as does the place given to Mr. Sonko. He will first have to appoint a government, which will be composed of “Senegalese men and women from the interior and the diaspora known for their competence, their integrity and their patriotism,” he declared.

The new president, not having a majority in the National Assembly, should be forced to form alliances to pass laws before a possible dissolution. It is particularly expected on the employment front, in a country where 75% of the population is under 35 and where the unemployment rate is officially 20%, which is pushing more and more young people, to escape poverty and undertake a perilous journey to Europe.