Bassirou Diomaye Faye: An overview of Senegal’s youngest ever leader

Bassirou Diomaye Faye, president of the Republic of Senegal. Screenshot from the Senegal7 YouTube Channel. Fair use.

On March 24, 2024, Bassirou Diomaye Faye became the youngest elected president in the history of Senegal at just 44 years of age. Faye subsequently entered office on his birthday on March 25.

This story is truly remarkable, given that just six months ago, Faye was still in the shadow of his former mentor, opposition leader and former presidential candidate, Ousmane Sonko.

First career in state institutions

In 2000, Faye graduated from Lycée Demba Diop in Mbour, a coastal town 80 km from Dakar, the capital of Senegal. He studied law at the Cheikh Anta Diop University of Dakar (UCAD), graduating with a master’s degree in 2004. That same year, Faye attended the National School of Administration of Senegal (ENA). In 2007, he graduated from the ENA, which enabled him to join the country’s General Directorate of Taxes and Domains as a tax inspector.

His social commitment and activism led him to join the Autonomous Union of Tax and Domain Agents. Faye quickly became a vital union member, holding the secretary general position. It was during this period that he met Ousmane Sonko. This encounter changed not only his life but also his outlook on it.

Read: Bassirou Diomaye Faye elected President of Senegal: A victory for determined young people

Political involvement

Although largely politically inactive at first, Faye joined Sonko in politics in 2014 by creating African Patriots of Senegal for Work, Ethics and Fraternity (PASTEF), a party of which Sonko was the leader and Faye a vital member.

This shift was gradual but remains somewhat of a surprise to him. He explains further in this interview with Senegalese media following the 2019 presidential elections, which news outlet BBC Afrique picked up:

Il ne me traversait pas l’esprit de faire de la politique, car quand vous avez un parent qui fait de la politique, de prime abord, vous avez horreur de la politique parce que vous voyez le manque de temps. Vous voyez la pénibilité de l’engagement, vous voyez les absences répétées du pater.

Going into politics never crossed my mind. When you have a parent in politics,  you hate politics from the outset because you see their lack of time. You see the hardships of commitment, and you see dad’s repeated absences.

In 2021, Faye was a candidate in the local elections in Ndiaganiao, his home commune. However, he lost to Tening Sène, a candidate from former president of Senegal Macky Sall’s Alliance for the Republic (APR) party.

In 2022, Faye was secretary general for the PASTEF party and president of the National Movement of Patriotic Cadres (MONCAP). Fully committed, Faye was helping to establish the party throughout Senegal and among the diaspora.

The PASTEF party members’ harsh criticism and denunciation of Macky Sall’s regime and his political system cost the party’s top officials, Bassirou Diomaye Faye and his mentor Ousmane Sonko, dearly. In April 2023, Faye was arrested and detained for spreading false news, defamation, and criticizing magistrates in the Sonko trial. In July 2023, Sonko was convicted of rape and defamation. However, their stint in prison did nothing to change the approach of the Faye–Sonko duo, who stepped up their negotiations from behind bars to ensure their chances of standing in the March 2024 presidential elections.

The road to the presidency

Although the Constitutional Council revoked Ousmane Sonko’s candidacy, the PASTEF party adopted a plan B: appointing Faye to represent Sonko’s vision of a wealthier Senegal. As the open support of the PASTEF party leader, Sonko, convinced its members and supporters, the buzz around Faye’s candidacy intensified. During the electoral campaign, a party member told BBC Afrique:

On peut dire que Diomaye [Faye] est l'autre Ousmane Sonko, sa copie presque parfaite, ils ont la même vision, ils pensent de la même façon et surtout ils se vouent un respect et une confiance à toute épreuve.

You could say that Diomaye [Faye] is another Ousmane Sonko, a near-perfect duplicate; they even have the same vision and way of thinking. Above all, they have a deep respect and trust for each other.

Upon their release from prison, Faye and  Sonko joined several activists in the field campaigning. They promoted their agenda and what they stood for among the population. Faye’s agenda advocates a break from the past and aims to develop Senegal’s sovereignty by taking on large-scale projects. These will focus on the following priorities: tackling corruption, restructuring institutions, restoring democracy, African integration, a currency reform or creating a national currency, and consolidating international partnerships.

Read Bassirou Diomaye Faye’s full agenda here

Upon election, Faye delivered his first address. An extract is available in this BBC Afrique YouTube video:

Bassirou Diomaye Faye, who has never held a ministerial position or been elected to municipal or legislative office in his country, is now the leader of a nation of over 18 million citizens that serves as a model of democracy in West Africa. The rise of the PASTEF party and Faye isn’t just an example of young people’s determination and commitment but is also an example of democracy for other West African countries.

Today, it is impossible to talk about Bassirou Diomaye Faye as president without mentioning Ousmane Sonko, often known as the kingmaker. Senegalese public broadcasting network, Radio Télévision Sénégalaise explains:

Senegalese citizens and political observers are now waiting to see what role Ousmane Sonko will play in this country’s next chapter alongside his right-hand man, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, whom he must now call President.


Since this article was first published, Bassirou Diomaye Faye has appointed Ousmane Sonko prime minister of Senegal.

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