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Senegal President Names Opposition Leader, Sonko As Prime Minister

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Left-wing pan-Africanist, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, on Tuesday became Senegal’s youngest president, pledging systemic change after years of deadly turmoil and announcing his mentor, opposition figure Ousmane Sonko, as prime minister.

Faye, 44, has never previously held an elected office. He swept to a first-round victory on a promise of radical reform just 10 days after being released from prison.

He took the presidential oath in front of hundreds of officials and several African heads of state at an exhibition centre in the new town of Diamniadio, near Dakar.

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He then returned to the capital, with his motorcade greeted by hundreds of jubilant residents who lined the roads leading to the presidential palace.

His predecessor, Macky Sall, symbolically handed Faye the key to the presidential headquarters before leaving the palace.

“Before God and the Senegalese nation, I swear to faithfully fulfil the office of President of the Republic of Senegal,” Faye had said earlier in the day.

Just hours later, his new administration appointed firebrand opposition leader Sonko prime minister.

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“Mr Ousmane Sonko is named prime minister,” said Oumar Samba Ba, the general secretary of the presidency, as he read out a decree on the public television station RTS.

Sonko, 49, was at the centre of a two-year stand-off with the state that triggered bouts of deadly unrest. He was disqualified from running in the most recent race and picked Faye as his replacement on the presidential ballot.

The former tax inspector is Senegal’s fifth president since independence from France in 1960 and the first to openly admit to a polygamous marriage.

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“I am aware that the results of the ballot box express a profound desire for systemic change,” Faye said in a brief speech after taking the presidential oath.

“Under my leadership, Senegal will be a country of hope, a peaceful country with an independent judiciary and a strengthened democracy,” he added.

Faye and Sonko were among a group of opposition politicians freed from prison 10 days before the March 24 presidential ballot under an amnesty announced by former president Macky Sall, who had tried to delay the vote.

READ ALSO: 44-year-old Faye Sworn In As Senegal President

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“I have painful memories of the martyrs of Senegalese democracy, the amputees, the wounded and the former prisoners,” Faye said Tuesday, referring to the past three years of political unrest that left dozens dead and hundreds arrested.

“I will always bear in mind the heavy sacrifices made in order never to disappoint you,” he added.

Faye also reiterated to foreign partners “Senegal’s openness to trade that respects our sovereignty and meets the aspirations of our people, in a mutually beneficial partnership”.

Commonly known as Diomaye, or “the honourable one”, his promise of radical change won the election with 54.3 percent of the vote.

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Reconciliation, sovereignty

Working with his populist mentor Sonko, Faye’s campaign set out priorities of national reconciliation, easing the cost-of-living crisis and fighting corruption.

He has also vowed to restore national sovereignty over key assets such as the oil, gas and fishing sectors.

Senegal is due to start hydrocarbon production later this year.

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READ ALSO: Faye: 15 Things To Know About 44-year-old Senegal’s President 

Faye also wants to replace the CFA franc, which he sees as a French colonial legacy, with a new common regional currency, and to invest more in agriculture with the aim of reaching food self-sufficiency.

After three tense years in the traditionally stable nation, his democratic victory has been internationally hailed, by Washington, Paris, the African Union and the European Union.

On the international stage, Faye seeks to bring military-run Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger back into the fold of the regional Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) bloc.

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On Tuesday, he urged “more solidarity” between African countries “in the face of security challenges”.

The military regimes in Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea all sent representatives to Diamniadio, including Guinean president General Mamady Doumbouya.

Burkina Faso’s leader Captain Ibrahim Traore wrote on X, formerly Twitter, that Faye’s mandate represented a “symbol of a new era for an uninhibited, free and sovereign Africa”.

READ ALSO: Senegal Cuts Internet Access As Citizens Protest Presidential Poll Delay

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He added he was ready to work together on “the renovation of sub-regional and international cooperation”.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the inauguration “a testament to the Senegalese people, that they fought for their right to vote”.

New generation of politicians

A practising Muslim from a humble background with two wives and four children, Faye represents a new generation of youthful politicians.

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He has voiced admiration for US ex-president Barack Obama and South African anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela.

However, Faye and the government he will shortly lead face major challenges.

The biggest appears to be creating enough jobs in a nation where 75 percent of the 18-million population is aged under 35 and the unemployment rate is officially 20 percent.

Faced with such dire economic prospects at home, many young Senegalese have chosen to risk their lives to join migrants trying to reach Europe.

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JUST IN: Iran Summons French, British, German Envoys Over Reactions To Israel Attack

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Iran summoned the French, British, and German ambassadors to Tehran on Sunday over reactions to Iran’s missile and drone attack on Israel.

“The British, French, and German ambassadors to Tehran were summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs following the irresponsible positions of certain officials of these countries regarding Iran’s response to the actions of the Zionist regime (Israel) against the nationals and interests of our country,” the official IRNA news agency said.

READ ALSO: Tension Heightens As US, Britain , France, Others React To Iran Strikes On Israel

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Details later…

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Tension Heightens As US, Britain , France, Others React To Iran Strikes On Israel

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Western powers condemned Iran’s strikes on Israel late Saturday, warning the attack threatened to escalate the destabilisation of the Middle East.

Here are some of the main reactions so far:

– United States: ‘ironclad’

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US National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson reiterated President Joe Biden’s “ironclad” support for Israel’s security.

“The United States will stand with the people of Israel and support their defense against these threats from Iran,” she said in a statement.

READ ALSO: Over 300 Drones, Missiles Fired From Iran Injured 12, Says Israel Army

She said “President Biden is being regularly updated on the situation.”

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– EU: ‘unprecedented’

The European Union’s foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell condemned the strikes as “an unprecedented escalation and a grave threat to regional security,” in a message on X.

– Britain: ‘reckless’

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in a statement condemned the “reckless” strikes that he said “risk inflaming tensions and destabilising the region. Iran has once again demonstrated that it is intent on sowing chaos in its own backyard.”

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READ ALSO: III World War Looms As US Openly Supports Israel, Downs Drones Fired By Iran

– France: ‘new level’

France’s Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne on X said that “in deciding to take this unprecedented action, Iran has reached a new level in its acts of destabilisation and is risking a military escalation.”

– Italy: ‘concern’

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Italy’s Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said his country was following the situation “with attention and concern” and was “ready to manage any kind of scenario”.

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III World War Looms As US Openly Supports Israel, Downs Drones Fired By Iran

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President Joe Biden said Saturday that US forces helped take down “nearly all” the drones and missiles fired by Iran at Israel, adding that he had reaffirmed his “ironclad” support to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Biden added in a statement that he would convene his fellow leaders of the G7 group of wealthy nations on Sunday to coordinate a “united diplomatic response” to Iran’s “brazen” attack.

“Iran — and its proxies operating out of Yemen, Syria and Iraq — launched an unprecedented air attack against military facilities in Israel. I condemn these attacks in the strongest possible terms,” Biden said.

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He said he had ordered US military aircraft and ballistic missile defense destroyers to the Middle East in recent days as the likely Iranian threat to the key US ally became clear.

READ ALSO: Over 300 Drones, Missiles Fired From Iran Injured 12, Says Israel Army

Thanks to these deployments and the extraordinary skill of our servicemembers, we helped Israel take down nearly all of the incoming drones and missiles,” Biden said.

Biden added that he had spoken to Netanyahu to “reaffirm America’s ironclad commitment” to Israel’s security.

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“I told him that Israel demonstrated a remarkable capacity to defend against and defeat even unprecedented attacks — sending a clear message to its foes that they cannot effectively threaten the security of Israel,” he said.

No US forces or facilities had come under attack from Iran, he said.

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