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Who is Bassirou Diomaye Faye, president-elect of Senegal?

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Bassirou Diomaye Diakhar Faye was born on 25th March 1980.  He is a Senegalese politician and former tax inspector, who is the president-elect of Senegal. He is the former general secretary of dissolved Pastef and won the 2024 presidential election in place of disqualified candidate Ousmane Sonko.

Faye was born in Ndiaganiao in the western department of M’Bour. In 2000, Faye earned his baccalaureate. He successfully attained a master’s degree in law and subsequently cleared both competitive exams, enrolling at the National School of Administration (ENA) and the magistracy in 2004. After graduation, he opted to become a tax inspector at the Tax and Estates Department, where he befriended Ousmane Sonko, a fellow alum from ENA.

Faye and Sonko’s relationship grew closer in 2014 in the Taxes and Estates Union created by Sonko after he returned from pilgrimage to Mecca. During his time at the head of the union, Faye campaigned to facilitate homeownership for the members of the union.

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Political career

Initially a guest when Pastef (Patriotes africains du Sénégal pour le travail, l’éthique et la fraternité or The African Patriots of Senegal for Work, Ethics and Fraternity) was founded in January 2014, Faye swiftly ascended to become one of the most prominent figures within the party. He would go on to become one of the ideologues and designers of Sonko’s programme for his presidential candidacy in 2019.

The Pastef party’s motto is “The gift of self for the Fatherland”. Its colours are red and green. The party emblem is represented by a red loop surrounded by green, inside which is the capitalised letter “P” and white with the head of a white leopard with black spots. The acronym ‘Pastef-Les Patriotes’ is inscribed, in green, starting from the “P” of the loop and separated by a thin horizontal red line from the mention Patriotes du Sénégal in red at the bottom of the acronym.

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In some African tribes, the leopard was considered a cunning, powerful and resistant animal.

In February 2021, Faye became the general secretary of Pastef after Sonko was arrested, being accused of repeated rape by a massage parlour employee Adji Sarr. As part of its strategy to win power, Faye attempted to unite the opposition for the 2022 elections, winning 56 seats under the alliance ‘Liberate the People’.

After uncertainty over the possibility of Sonko being a candidate in the presidential election, Pastef endorsed Faye in November 2023 as its candidate for the 2024 presidential election, despite him being detained. However, Pastef had been dissolved several months earlier, meaning he would run as an independent.

On 20 January 2024, the Senegalese Constitutional Council published the final list of candidates for the presidential election and Sonko did not appear there after several legal battles. Faye’s candidacy was validated because he was never convicted although remaining detained. Sonko quickly announced his support for Faye for the election.

On 15 March 2024, a day after Faye’s release from jail, he gathered hundreds of supporters at his first public appearance as a presidential contender. Former president Abdoulaye Wade and his Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS) endorsed Faye a few days before the election, in a boost to his chances of winning election. The move came after PDS candidate, Karim Wade, was disqualified from contesting the race because he was a dual citizen at the time he submitted his candidacy. Cheikh Tidiane Dieye, another candidate in the presidential election, withdrew in favour of Faye.

During the presidential campaign, Faye promised to create jobs, campaigned strongly against corruption, and vowed to re-examine energy contracts. He ran under the slogan “Diomaye mooy Ousmane”, which means “Diomaye is Ousmane” in Wolof, hoping Sonko’s charisma and popular appeal among Senegal’s youths would boost his campaign. Faye’s programme is similar with Sonko’s manifesto when the latter ran for president in the 2019 election.

Imprisonment and release

On 14 April 2023, Faye was apprehended as he exited his tax and property office on Rue de Thiong in Dakar. Subsequently, he was placed under police custody for charges including “spreading false news, contempt of court, and defamation of a constituted body” following a social media post he made. In this post, he denounced the perceived injustice within the judicial system, foreseeing a verdict that could potentially disqualify Sonko in a legal dispute between Pastef and the Minister of Tourism, Mame Mbaye Niang. As the situation progressed, additional charges of “incitement to insurrection” and “undermining state security” were brought against him, resulting in an indefinite period of detention.

After an attempt by incumbent President Macky Sall in February to postpone the elections citing unresolved disputes over who could run, widespread protests occurred and the Constitutional Council overturned the postponement. In response to the protests and the ruling by the council, Sall said that he would leave office as scheduled on April 2, setting the date on March 24. He also expressed his willingness to release Sonko, Faye and all their supporters as an act of good faith. At the end of February, the government tabled an amnesty bill to calm the social and political climate. Several hundred political prisoners were released by the government, and on 14 March, days before the election, Sonko and Faye were released from prison.

Political positions

Faye says he believes in system change and left-wing pan-Africanism to reclaim Senegal’s sovereignty, a rhetoric some analysts believe is an allusion to intentions to distance the country from Western powers especially former colonial ruler France. He also vowed to fight “French economic stranglehold” over Senegal if elected. He was once quoted as saying: “Hey, say loudly to France it’s enough. It’s time for change. Free West African countries under France neocolonialism, scam and theft. Stop all created wars by France; terrorism does not exit in Africa this has been brought by France.  Oblige France to have morals, and work to survive like Germany, Spain, Italy and other EU countries.”

Reforms

Faye has promised to reduce presidential powers and reintroduce the vice presidency. He said he will prioritise fighting political corruption, saying “No country can develop when corruption and embezzlement of public funds are endemic.”

Faye wants to implement a monetary reform to finance the economy of Senegal, removing the CFA franc. In his programme he states: “We will carry out a monetary reform that will allow our country to have its own currency.”

He added in a press conference that he believes “there’s no sovereignty if there is no monetary sovereignty”.  After concerns from foreign investors, he walked back the promise, saying, “Senegal will seek to implement a reform of the CFA franc at a regional level first and if that fails, will consider creating a national currency.”

Faye believes in the renegotiation of contracts between the government and corporations in sectors ranging from energy and mining to fishing. He has also pledged to equally distribute profits out of a gas field that is expected to start production in 2024

Faye aims to enhance the reputation and integrity of the defence and security forces through a concerted effort to combat corruption and inefficiency. This initiative seeks to ensure the optimal utilisation of resources by implementing programmes aimed at boosting the morale, motivation, and oversight of officers.

Additionally, there’s a commitment to raise the salaries of lower-ranking personnel. His programme pledges to uphold the core identity of the Armed Forces of Senegal by advocating for a return to military principles, preventing their involvement in political involvement. Furthermore, the plan includes bolstering the air capabilities of the army through the procurement of strategic transport aircraft, such as the C130, to fulfill external commitments effectively.

Faye believes there should be no ties between the executive and the judiciary. His plan involves transitioning from a Constitutional Council to a Constitutional Court, positioning it as the apex of the judicial structure.

Additionally, in a bid to enhance accountability and fortify oversight mechanisms, he proposes abolishing political funds and substituting them with special funds allocated by the National Assembly for critical operations, such as arms procurement and clandestine missions. Furthermore, legislation will be introduced to safeguard whistleblowers, aligning with the principles outlined in the law on transparency in public finance management.

Personal life

Bassirou Diomaye Faye has two wives; Marie Khoné Faye and Absa Faye. Bassirou and Marie Khoné, who is his close relative, have four children; three boys and a girl. He does not have any children with Absa. Faye and Sonko are close friends, and Faye even named one of his sons Ousmane in honour of their friendship. Faye like Sonko is a devout practicing Muslim.

Editor’s note: Information for this article is culled from Wikipedia and other sources

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