April 15, 2024

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The president of Senegal has two first ladies

The president of Senegal has two first ladies

Bassirou Diomaye Faye with his two wives: Senegal's new president is aiming for big changes.Build: Keystone

In Senegal, he has been sworn in as the country's youngest president to date. She is the first head of state to officially have two first ladies.

Laura Mielke / T-Online

In Senegal, he was sworn in as the country's youngest president to date, pledging “systemic change” in his inauguration speech. Fay was the first opposition candidate to be confirmed in the first round of voting since the country gained independence from France in 1960. And she was the first head of state to officially present two first ladies to the people.

At his last campaign event, the Muslim Faye, who often wears traditional white clothing, appeared in front of thousands of supporters with his two wives, Mary and Absa. This is the first time that polygamy, deeply rooted in Senegalese culture, has been openly practiced by a head of state.

Polygamy is “Brand New” in the Presidential Palace

Muslim has been married since 2009 to Mary Kohn Fay, a Christian. They have four children. Last year he married a Muslim named Absa Fay. Polygamy is deeply rooted in the Muslim nation, but his public commitment to his two wives has so far been unusual. There has only ever been one First Lady, said former Culture Minister Benda Mbo. The marriage situation in the presidential palace is “completely new” and “the whole protocol needs to be revised.”

Fay won the West African nation's presidential election on March 24. Senegal is facing a massive political upheaval. During the election campaign, Fay described himself as a “candidate for structural change” and a representative of “left-wing pan-Africanism”. The 44-year-old also promised a more equitable distribution of income from the country's rich resource reserves.

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Fay's election could now lead to a profound change in the nation's institutions. For example, the new president plans to renegotiate oil reserves and fishing agreements. Fay also said he was not afraid to abandon the CFA franc as the national currency, which he sees as common in West Africa and a French colonial heritage. Senegal needs to invest more in agriculture to become self-sufficient in the future.

Fay was in prison just before the election

At the same time, he assured potential investors that Senegal would be “an ally and a safe and reliable partner for every partner” committed to “mutual productive cooperation”.

One of Fay's goals was to persuade the military-ruled states of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger to rejoin the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas). In January, the Sahel states accused the coalition of being “under the influence of foreign powers” — referring to former colonial power France — and announced they were leaving, and turned to Russia.

Fay comes from a humble background and grew up in a family of farmers. He is also said to be a great admirer of former US President Barack Obama and anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela.

Faye was released from prison just ten days before the presidential election – having been jailed for various offenses including criticizing the judiciary and contempt of court. His campaign began while he was in prison. Faye is supported by her mentor Usman Sonko, who was excluded from the election. Fay, a former tax inspector usually known as “Diomae,” has never held elected office before. People still flocked to events on the joint campaign tour with Sonko, chanting: “Sonko Diomaye, Diomaye Sonko.”

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