Sall 'connects deeply with Senegalese'
03 April 2012, 10:58
Dakar - Senegal's former leader took office in 2000 before thousands
gathered at a sports stadium. New President Macky Sall, by comparison,
held his short inauguration ceremony on Monday in a tent on a hotel
As Senegal faces rising unemployment and frustration with
government spending, Sall said he wanted to hold his event "in the
simplicity that is called for by the situation in the country."
has promised that his administration will mark a "new era" in Senegal,
and Monday's festivities indicated a clear break with ex-president
Abdoulaye Wade, who once spent an estimated $27m on a heavily criticised
50m-high bronze statue.
And while Wade was fond of speeches that
lasted hours, Sall kept the ceremony short and then led a procession
through the streets of the capital, drawing large crowds of supporters.
supporters say his modest upbringing as the son of a roadside peanut
seller uniquely positions him to understand the plight of those
struggling to make a living in this nation of more than 12 million.
connects deeply with the Senegalese people and particularly on the
issue of poverty," his cousin, Amadou Thimbo, 42, said at his home in
Sall's hometown of Fatick on the eve of the inauguration.
becomes Senegal's fourth president, and he is the country's first leader
to be born since independence from France in 1960. At 50, he is 35
years younger than the outgoing president and campaigned on those
While Wade is
fond of tracing his lineage back hundreds of years to Senegal's Waalo
kingdom, Sall's parents worked in modest jobs to raise their five
children, the mother selling peanuts on the side of a road and the
father a low-level government functionary. Despite their own lack of
education, they showed an interest in his.
Sall's father often
came by to check on his son's progress in school, even though he himself
could not read, recalled Sall's former primary school teacher Mamadou
"He's a self-made man, and he really invested himself in
his studies to succeed because he came from a very modest family,"
Sall went on to university, became a geologist and
entered public service as Senegal's minister of mines and energy. He
later served as prime minister under Wade and even ran his re-election
campaign in 2007. The two parted ways after Sall publicly questioned how
Wade's son was spending public money.
This year, Sall emerged
from a field of more than a dozen opposition candidates to face the
increasingly unpopular incumbent and won the runoff vote in a landslide,
receiving 65.80% of ballots cast, compared to just 34.20% for Wade. He
campaigned on a "path to progress," promising to boost economic
development and tackle corruption.
Violent protests leading up to
the election this year rattled normally peaceful Senegal, and many
feared further unrest if Wade did not accept defeat. He surprised his
nation and the world by gracefully conceding his loss, and calling Sall
hours after polls closed to congratulate his opponent.
hometown of Fatick, Sall's face is emblazoned everywhere: on campaign
posters that remain tidy even a week after the vote, on T-shirts and
even emblazoned on traditional African fabric made into women's dresses.
Messages of support for him are also spray-painted on nearly every
building in town, though even here he faces high expectations.
Sall's mother, Khadidiatou Diallo has sold peanuts on the street for 15
years to make a living. Now in her 60s, she has a daughter at
university, but one of her sons is searching for work and the other
would like a better paying job than operating a motorcycle taxi.
have hope that with Macky, there will be solutions found to these
problems," she said, as she waited for customers to purchase her neat
piles of ripe mangos on display at the town's Sunday market.
who have worked with Sall say his strength in the face of adversity
will serve him well in his new position. His standoff with the Wades
over public spending ultimately cost him his leadership position as
president of the National Assembly.
"At the National Assembly,
Macky was subjected to persecution and humiliation but he was very
confident," said Diene Farba Faye, a special adviser to Sall.
has served as mayor the last several years in Fatick, and residents
here credit him with improving the roads shared by SUVs, horse-drawn
carriages and goats.
On Sunday, there was widespread optimism
among those waiting to bargain over livestock at the market. Gorgui
Diouf, 68, tugged two sheep on a rope that he planned to sell ahead of
his son's wedding in two weeks.
Like many, he pointed to the
unseasonal rains that fell not long after Sall's victory as an
auspicious start of a new beginning, but acknowledges expectations for
change may be too high.
"Macky can't give money to everyone -
that's impossible," he says. "But he can create a political and economic
system that provides possibilities for people.