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Sngal: Bassirou Diomaye Faye, the victorious plan B of Sonko

  • March 25, 2024
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From a Dakar prison to the presidential chair, Bassirou Diomaye Faye embodies the victorious bet of the charismatic Senegalese opponent Ousmane Sonko, who had designated his political brother-in-arms as his deputy.

“Bassirou, it’s me,” Ousmane Sonko said of his lieutenant called to become the youngest Senegalese head of state after his main opponent recognized his victory on Monday.

“Diomaye”, as he is commonly called (“the honorable” in Serer, one of the human communities of Senegal), celebrated his 44th birthday on Monday.

Its advent potentially heralds a significant transformation of the country’s governance.

The former tax inspector discreetly took the steps in the shadow of his mentor Ousmane Sonko, third in the presidential election in 2019 and ineligible in 2024 after three years of standoff with power. Mr. Sonko named him as his replacement in the presidential race. He has never held any elected office before.

Senegal: Bassirou Diomaye Faye, opponent Sonko's victorious plan B

Senegalese opponent Bassirou Diomaye Faye places his ballot in the ballot box during the presidential election on March 24, at the Ndiandiaye School in his village of Ndiaganiao (west). / SEYLLOU / AFP

Released ten days ago from the prison where they were detained, the two men attracted, during a tour across Senegal, jubilant crowds who repeated as their sole slogan “Sonko mooy Diomaye, Diomaye mooy Sonko” (“Sonko mooy Diomaye, Diomaye mooy Sonko” (“Sonko mooy Diomaye, Diomaye mooy Sonko”). Sonko is Diomaye, Diomaye is Sonko”) in the Wolof language.

“Of course, we would have preferred that it was Ousmane Sonko (the candidate). But I have confidence in Diomaye because Sonko trusted him. They share the same project,” confides Mourtalla Diouf, a young 27-year-old from Casamance.

“They are two sides of the same coin with two different styles,” corroborates Moustapha Sarr, a trainer of activists from Pastef, the party of MM. Faye and Sonko dissolved by the authorities in 2023.

Often dressed in a traditional white boubou, of medium height, wearing a goatee under his youthful face, Mr. Faye appeared on stage during his last electoral rally in the company of his two wives, a first for a Senegalese president.

Against hyper-presidentialism, this practicing Muslim appears as the incarnation of a new generation of politicians, highlighting his pan-African values, his desire to preserve the sovereignty of his country, to distribute wealth more fairly and to reform a justice which he considers corrupt.

He also promises to renegotiate oil and fishing contracts and says he is not afraid to leave the CFA franc, including going as far as creating a new national currency, a measure that his opponent Amadou Ba denounced as a economic “nonsense”.

“Particularly reasonable”

His project is widely relayed by his many supporters on social networks, such as his declaration of assets published on the last day of the campaign to mark his “transparency”.

Senegal: Bassirou Diomaye Faye, opponent Sonko's victorious plan B

Senegalese opponent Bassirou Diomaye Faye (C) during his last campaign meeting in Mbour on March 22, two days before the presidential election which he won in the first round. / MARCO LONGARI / AFP

His rivals accuse him of being at the head of “adventurers” ready to pursue a policy of rupture that is dangerous for a country renowned for its stability in West Africa.

Coming from a modest family of farmers, Bassirou Diomaye Faye took the entrance exam for Ena (national school of administration) in Senegal, in the footsteps of Mr. Sonko, before taking the head of the union that the latter led . Together, they founded the political party Pastef in 2014.

Mr. Faye even goes so far as to call one of his sons “Ousmane” in honor of his traveling companion.

Then they find themselves together in prison. In April 2023, Mr. Faye was indicted and imprisoned for contempt of court, defamation and acts likely to compromise public peace, according to one of his lawyers, after the broadcast of a critical message against justice in the Sonko cases. In July, Mr. Sonko joined him, accused in particular of “calling for insurrection”.

“President, you often say that I am stubborn” but “we are always together”, he said, during a press conference under the gaze of Ousmane Sonko, the day after their release.

He presents himself as someone “particularly reasoned, particularly reasonable, particularly sensible, particularly thoughtful”.

After voting on Sunday, he called for a “definitive return to serenity” in Senegal “which has been seriously disrupted” in recent years.