One President, Two First Ladies. An African Head of State Was Inaugurated in the Presence of What

One President, Two First Ladies. An African Head of State Was Inaugurated in the Presence of What
One President, Two First Ladies. An African Head of State Was Inaugurated in the Presence of What

The new president chose to openly display his polygamy, a traditional and religious practice strongly rooted in Senegalese culture, even during the electoral campaign, before his triumphant election, already in the first round of voting, with 54.28% of the votes.

Marie Khone, the first woman he married 15 years ago and with whom he has four children, is from the same village as him.

He married his second wife, Absa, a little over a year ago.

According to the sociologist Djiby Diakhate, “it is about consecrating the tradition of polygamy at the top of the state, with a situation that will reflect the Senegalese reality”. The sociologist says that this practice is “favored” by many men, but that many women remain “suspicious” of the principles that govern it.

Polygamy has long been a controversial topic in this country, with a Muslim population of more than 90%. But the public appearance of “BDF”, as the new president is called, surrounded by his two wives, brought the subject back to the center of debates, in the press, on social networks, but also in ordinary families, provoking various reactions.

A renowned sociologist, Fatou Sow Sarr, wrote on the X platform that “polygamy, monogamy and polyandry are matrimonial patterns determined by the history of each people. The West has no legitimacy to judge our cultures”.

However, many Senegalese women are against this practice, which they consider hypocritical and unfair to them. And the UN Human Rights Commission decided, in a report published in 2022, that polygamy constitutes discrimination against women and must be eradicated.

“Mistress of a Married Man”

Mariama Ba, one of Senegal’s most important literary figures, already severely criticized polygamy in her famous novel “Une si longue lettre” (“A Letter So Long”), published in 1979. In it, she describes the pain and loneliness to a married woman, after the husband also married a very young woman.

Several successful Senegalese series devoted to this theme in recent years, such as “Maîtresse dun homme marié” (Mistress of a married man) and “Polygamy” (Polygamy), have highlighted the turmoil and tensions within families dealing with polygamy.

For the former minister of culture, history professor Penda Mbow, the new situation at the presidential palace “is totally new”.

“Until now, there has only been one first lady. This means that the entire protocol must be revised”, he pointed out.

A very widespread religious and traditional practice in Senegal, especially in rural areas, polygamy is adopted by many Senegalese, who generally see it as a way to enlarge their family. The Muslim religion also allows a man to marry up to four wives if he has the means to do so. In such cases, Islam provides equal days of alternation between the different co-wives, which can vary from two to three days.

Although it is difficult to quantify because many marriages are not registered, 32.5% of married Senegalese live in polygamous unions, according to a 2013 report by the National Agency for Statistics and Demography. The average age of polygamy is 43.9 years, with women (40.4) entering polygamy at an earlier age than men (52.9), according to the report.

For sociologist Djiby Diakhate, President Faye sends “a strong signal that other men should also accept their polygamy and that they should be as transparent as he is”, no doubt with the desire to end the practice of hidden polygamy, known as “Taku Suf” (in the Wolof language), which, in his opinion, “will be a good thing for the economy of the country and for the marital situation”.

“I have beautiful children because I have wonderful wives”

The new Senegalese president fully accepted his polygamy and answered his critics: “I have beautiful children because I have wonderful wives. They are very beautiful. And I thank Allah that they are always willing to support me”, he declared during the presidential campaign.

The two women he is married to attended his investiture on Tuesday.

Confident, dressed in a dark blue suit and matching tie, Faye was sworn in on Tuesday in front of hundreds of Senegalese officials and several African heads of state and leaders at the exhibition center in the new town of Diamniadio, near Dakar.

He then returned to the capital, a mounted guard leading the way for his motorcade to be greeted by hundreds of Dakar residents lining the road leading to the gates of the presidential palace. There, his predecessor, Macky Sall, after a short and cordial greeting, symbolically handed him the key to the presidential office before leaving the gate.

Faye, who has never been elected to office, became the West African country’s youngest president since independence in 1960, less than three weeks after his release from prison.

On 14 April 2023, Faye was arrested as he left his office on charges of “spreading false news, contempt of court and defaming a constituted body”, following a post he made on social media. In this post, he denounced the perceived injustice within the judicial system. After the detention, he was not convicted and thus he could run for the presidency.

In his speech after the inauguration, Faye said he was “aware” of the fact that his decisive victory in the first round of the March 24 presidential election expressed “a deep desire for systemic change”.

“Under my leadership, Senegal will be a country of hope, a country at peace, with an independent judiciary and a consolidated democracy,” he promised. The new president referred to the years of unrest that preceded his election and that resulted in dozens of deaths and hundreds of arrests.

Faye succeeds for a five-year term Macky Sall, 62, who spent 12 years at the head of a country of 18 million inhabitants and who maintained strong relations with the West and France, diversifying at the same time time partnerships.

Nicknamed “Diomaye” (“The Honorable”), Faye embodies a new generation of young politicians. Driven by the desire for change, Faye faces major challenges. His concrete plans remain unclear, as does the place given to his mentor, Ousmane Sonko.

First they have to appoint a government. He is eagerly expected to make decisions especially in the field of employment, in a country where 75% of the population is under 35 and where the unemployment rate is officially 20%, forcing more and more young people to fleeing poverty and embarking on a dangerous journey to Europe.

Photo: Profimedia Images

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The article is in Romanian

Tags: President Ladies African State Inaugurated Presence


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