Senegal’s president-elect pledges to fight corruption after a stunning victory

Bassirou Diomaye Faye speaks into a microphone in front of a background that reads "Diomaye President"
Bassirou Diomaye Faye holds a news conference after winning the presidential elections in Dakar, Senegal, Monday, March 25, 2024.
(Mosa’ab Elshamy / Associated Press)

Senegal woke up Tuesday to a new president-elect, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, a former tax inspector and political newcomer who inspired voters, including many unemployed youth, with a vow to fight corruption and reform the economy.

Faye, 44, was catapulted into the presidential campaign when he was backed by the popular opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, who had been barred from running due to a prior conviction. Winning Sunday’s presidential election was a dramatic rise for Faye, who was released from prison less than two weeks ago and is now due to be the youngest leader of the West African nation.

“I pledge to govern with humility and transparency, and to fight corruption at all levels. I pledge to devote myself fully to rebuilding our institutions,” he said during his first speech Monday night as president-elect, restating promises made during his campaign.


Celebrations erupted around the capital Monday evening as news of Faye’s victory spread, but calm returned on Tuesday and citizens went about their normal business. Mamadou Diakhaté, a 32-year-old market vendor from Dakar’s suburbs, said he was relieved that elections had been peaceful and that life could resume after months of uncertainty.

Former prime minister concedes the presidential election to the opposition candidate based on preliminary results a day after the vote.

March 25, 2024

“We hope the new president will not disappoint,” Diakhaté said Tuesday. “The young have a lot of hope in him.”

While official results of Sunday’s vote are not expected until Friday, the other front-runner — former Prime Minister Amadou Ba who was backed by incumbent President Macky Sall — conceded defeat based on clear margins in preliminary results. Ba and Sall both congratulated Faye and named him the winner.

The election followed months of unrest ignited by the arrests last year of Sonko and Faye, and concerns that the president would seek a third term in office despite constitutional term limits. The violence shook Senegal’s reputation as a stable democracy in a region that has seen a wave of coups. Rights groups said dozens were killed in the protests, while some 1,000 people were jailed.

Sall sought to delay the election until December but that move was blocked by the country’s constitutional court, and the government was forced to allow an election to go forward this month.

Faye was considered an anti-establishment candidate, and his campaign messages of economic reform and anti-corruption resonated with the youth. Almost a third of young people are unemployed, with thousands risking their lives on dangerous journeys in search of jobs in the West.


Anta Babacar Ngom, a 40-year-old business executive, is a voice for both women and young people — groups hit hard by the country’s economic troubles.

March 20, 2024

Abibatou Fall, a 25-year-old unemployed tourism graduate, said she was praying that the incoming president can improve the economy and create jobs.

“I am unemployed and my parents continue to look after me,” Fall said. “We needed change.”

Faye has vowed to improve Senegal’s control over its natural resources by promoting national companies to prevent the country from falling into what his campaign called “economic enslavement.” His manifesto promised to renegotiate Senegal’s oil and gas contracts and introduce a new currency.

On Monday night, Faye outlined some early foreign policy priorities, which included reforming the troubled West African regional bloc known as ECOWAS.

Rida Lyammouri of the Policy Center for the New South, a Morocco-based think tank, said that a promise by Faye to move away from former colonial power France could define the foreign policy of the country’s new government.

“A win by the opposition also means major changes ahead in domestic and foreign policies,” Lyammouri said.

Senegalese President Macky Sall postponed presidential elections, citing controversies over the disqualification of some candidates and allegations of corruption.

Feb. 3, 2024

However, analysts at specialist intelligence advisory firm Pangea-Risk said that the lack of a majority in Senegal’s parliament and financial conditions imposed by the International Monetary Fund will prevent Faye’s more drastic pledges. Already, Faye has backtracked on the promise to create a national currency, adding that he will first seek to reform the regional currency CFA, shared between 14 West and Central African nations.


Analysts highlighted a potential tension between Faye and Sonko’s push for sovereignty and the campaign promise to improve living conditions for citizens. Quitting the CFA, which is pegged to the euro, could trigger an inflationary crisis and renegotiating contracts with oil and gas companies is thought to be costly and lengthy, as well as damaging to Senegal’s reputation as a destination for foreign investment.

After Sall’s efforts to delay the election led to both a rebuke from the constitutional court and unrest on the country’s streets, the government on March 6 announced that the election was scheduled for later in the month. The government also passed an amnesty law releasing hundreds of political prisoners, including Sonko and Faye, on March 14.

Most of the 32,000 migrants who have made the treacherous boat journey on the Atlantic Ocean to Spain’s Canary Islands this year arrive from Senegal.

Nov. 6, 2023

The election was largely peaceful and early counts showed voters turned out overwhelmingly in favor of the opposition. Sonko had promised a resounding victory on his YouTube channel.

Faye’s roots lie in a small town in central Senegal. He is a practicing Muslim and has two wives. Ahead of Sunday’s election, Faye published a declaration of his assets, and called on other candidates to do the same. It lists a home in Dakar, and land outside the capital and in his hometown. His bank accounts hold roughly $6,600.

After studying law and graduating from Senegal’s National School of Administration in 2004, Faye became a tax inspector. This was when he met Sonko, also a tax inspector, and joined his newly-formed party PASTEF. He quickly became a prominent figure in the party and was named general secretary in 2021.

“I would even say that he is more honest than me. I place the project in his hands,” Sonko told supporters at a joint news conference in March of last year. Weeks later, Faye was arrested and jailed on various charges, including defamation.


Faye paid tribute to Sonko in his speech but declined to say what role Sonko might play in his government.

Babacar Dione and Jack Thompson write for the Associated Press.