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President Faye names opposition leader, Sonko PM

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Senegal’s new president has appointed firebrand politician and key backer Ousmane Sonko as prime minister in his first act as the West African nation’s leader.

Bassirou Diomaye Faye made the announcement shortly after he was sworn into office on Tuesday, pledging systemic change after years of deadly turmoil under his predecessor, Macky Sall, a political opponent of Sonko.

The relationship between Sonko and Faye strengthened as Senegal geared up to its elections and the opposition leaders were both released from prison two weeks before the polls.

The move came after a political amnesty was announced by now former President Macky Sall.

Despite the release from prison, Sonko was barred from contesting in the nation’s elections due to a prior conviction.

His supporters and other opposition leaders maintain that the legal challenges faced by the newly announced prime minister were aimed at blocking his participation in the polls.

In reaction to his barring, Sonko handpicked Faye to be the candidate representing an opposition coalition in the March 24 presidential race.

Experts say Sonko’s support catapulted Faye to presidency.

Sonko, a 49-year-old firebrand leader, is known for inspiring Senegalese youth who are frustrated with widespread unemployment and corruption among the nation’s ruling elite.

A former tax inspector, like Faye, the newly named prime minister has promised to deliver greater transparency and sovereignty for Senegal.

Aissata Sagna, a 39-year-old factor worker who worked on the president’s campaign, said Faye’s inauguration was “a day of celebration for us.”

Senegalese are facing high unemployment rates and food prices which were instigated by the war in Ukraine.

Faye and Sonko campaigned on promises to clean up corruption.

Ahead of the election, Senegal’s new president released a declaration of his assets and called on other candidates to do the same. It listed a home in Dakar and land outside the capital and in his small hometown.

Faye’s bank accounts totaled roughly $6,600. A practicing Muslim, he has two wives, both of whom were present at his inauguration.

Alione Tine, the founder of the Senegalese think tank Afrikajom Center, said the West African nation will pay attention to who he appoints to his cabinet.

Senegalese will analyze Faye’s administration “with a fine-tooth comb to see if they meet the demand for a break with the past,” he said.

Speaking to media after his appointment, Sonko said he would present Faye with a full list of proposed ministerial appointments for his approval.

“There will be no question of leaving him (Faye) alone to assume this heavy responsibility,” Sonko said.

VOA

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