Africa’s Youngest President Takes Office, Promising ‘Systemic Change’

Still reeling from a whirlwind campaign, young people in Senegal threw jackets over their worn election T-shirts on Tuesday to attend the inauguration of an opposition politician who went from political prisoner to president in less than three weeks.

Their new leader, Bassirou Diomaye Faye — at 44, Africa’s youngest elected president — took the oath of office promising “systemic change,” and paying homage to the many people killed, injured, and imprisoned in the yearslong lead-up to the West African country’s election.

“I will always keep in mind the heavy sacrifices made so as to never disappoint you,” Mr. Faye said, addressing a vast auditorium in which African heads of state and dignitaries sat at the front. From the back, hundreds of supporters of Mr. Faye and his powerful backer, the opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, shouted for joy.

It was the culmination of months of drama, after the former president, Macky Sall, canceled the election with just weeks to go, citing irregularities at the constitutional council — and then, under intense domestic and international pressure, agreed to hold it after all.

Mr. Sall’s handpicked candidate was resoundingly beaten by Mr. Faye, a tax inspector and political rookie who got more than 54 percent of the vote, despite having only 10 days of freedom in which to campaign. He had been jailed on charges of defamation and contempt of court, and was awaiting trial when Mr. Sall announced the adoption of an amnesty law and was released.

“You’re Senegal’s uncontested and dazzling choice,” said the president of the constitutional council, Mamadou Badio Camara, presiding over the inauguration.

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