From Village to Prison to Africa’s Youngest Elected President

The first election that Bassirou Diomaye Faye ever won was the one that just made him the president-elect of Senegal.

Before his victory in the election last Sunday, 10 days after he was released from jail, Mr. Faye had only ever run for mayor of his hometown, Ndiaganiao — a small settlement on a sandy track, crisscrossed by horse carts carrying women and their wares to the market. He lost that election, in 2022, to the ruling party’s candidate.

Few in Senegal know the remarkable journey of the 44-year-old tax inspector who rode a wave of youth discontent to become — once inaugurated — Africa’s youngest elected president. Provisional results officially released on Tuesday showed he won with 54 percent of the vote.

But through interviews with family and friends in Ndiaganiao and the outlying village where he was raised, a picture emerged of a studious, loyal, curious and sometimes stubborn man, rooted in Senegalese traditions and his Islamic faith, with a deep understanding of the predicament facing his country’s legion of frustrated youth.

“He didn’t come from nowhere,” Diomaye Faye, the uncle after whom he is named, said in an interview at the president-elect’s family home, a tidy, modest compound that hosted a huge, impromptu party on Sunday night. He added, “This family is not new to ruling.”

Mr. Faye and his wives after voting in Ndiaganiao on Sunday.Credit…Jerome Favre/EPA, via Shutterstock
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