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Senegalese opposition politician Bassirou Diomaye Faye was sworn in Tuesday as Senegal’s youngest-ever president, promising radical reform and stability after an uptick of unrest in the West African nation long held up as a democratic model for the region, Agence France-Presse reported.

Faye, a 44-year-old, left-wing pan-Africanist, won more than 54 percent of the vote in last month’s presidential election, just 10 days after being released from prison.

In his inaugural address, Faye – who has never held elected office before – pledged to defend national sovereignty and achieve African unity, emphasizing systemic change and a peaceful, democratic Senegal.

He was among a group of opposition politicians released from prison just days before the March 24 presidential ballot, following an amnesty declared by former President Macky Sall, who had initially attempted to postpone the election.

Faye’s campaign resonated with voters seeking change amid political turmoil and economic challenges. He vowed to prioritize national reconciliation, address the cost of living crisis, and combat corruption.

He has also pledged to restore sovereignty over key sectors like oil, gas, and fishing, and invest in agriculture to achieve self-sufficiency in food. He wants to leave the regional CFA currency union, calling it a legacy of French colonialism.

Internationally, the young leader seeks to re-engage with the military juntas of Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger to bring them back as members to the regional Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The three left after ECOWAS pressured the countries’ leaders to restore democracy.

Despite a decisive victory, analysts say that Faye will face serious challenges.

Currently, he lacks a majority in parliament to pass laws and faces the daunting task of creating jobs in a youthful nation where unemployment is officially running at 20 percent.

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