President Diomaye Faye on tour among the Malian and Burkinabé putschists

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The President of Senegal, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, at the presidential palace in Dakar, March 28, 2024. AFP

Bassirou Diomaye Faye is expected in Mali and Burkina Faso, this May 30, for a “ friendship and work visit », according to a press release from the Senegalese presidency, with a view to strengthening “historical good neighborly ties”. The new Senegalese head of state must meet for the first time the Burkinabé leader, Captain Ibrahim Traoré, in Ouagadougou and the president of the Malian transition, Colonel Assimi Goïta, in Bamako, two men who carried out a coup d’état, breaking with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), of which Senegal is a heavyweight.

If these putschists maintain tense relations with some of their West African counterparts, they share with the Senegalese president the same pan-Africanist and sovereignist rhetoric. Bassirou Diomaye Faye was elected on a program praising a break with the neocolonial order and a promise of change.

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During his inauguration on April 2, his supporters also cheered the officials from Mali and Burkina Faso who had made the trip. An ideological proximity which was not without raising questions among Senegal’s Western partners and within ECOWAS. Which side would Macky Sall’s successor choose?

None, replied Bassirou Diomaye Faye. Crowned with his exemplary election – he won in the first round, without challenge from his opponents – he intends to put his popularity at the service of West Africa. “I am convinced that we must continue to act in solidarity within the ECOWAS area, to make the necessary reforms and to work to dispel the misunderstandings which cannot fail to arise”he declared on May 7 in Abidjan, ensuring that ECOWAS “is a fantastic integration tool [que] we will benefit from preserving.” A message directly addressed to the three putschist countries which created the Alliance of Sahel States (AES), endangering the survival of the regional organization.

“Bringing the Sahelians back home”

Besides Ivory Coast, Bassirou Diomaye Faye went to his direct neighbors, the Mauritania, Gambia and Guinea-Bissau, but also in Nigeria, Ghana, then Cape Verde and Guinea. Eight countries in just two months, during which this discreet man decided to put on the role of mediator. Bola Tinubu, the president of Nigeria and current president of ECOWAS, asked him to try everything to do “ return home » the Sahelian countries on the verge of departure. On the sidelines of his trip to Abuja, Mr. Diomaye Faye also received the president of the ECOWAS Commission, Omar Alieu Touray.

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The file is complex and if anyone can take charge of it, it is Diomaye Faye. He understands the hostile rhetoric against France of the juntas in the Sahel, and enjoys the close relations between his country and those of ECOWAS, such as Ivory Coast. », underlines Oumar Berté, jurist and author of a work on the West African institution, who also specifies that “ the Senegalese president seems appreciated by Malian and Burkinabe citizens “.

For Oumar Berté, the young Senegalese president has every interest in trying to reconcile his region. “ Positioning yourself as a mediator has prestigecontinues the lawyer. But above all, there are economic issues for Senegal in not seeing ECOWAS crack. Half of the activity of the port of Dakar is based on products destined for Mali “. He thus recalls that “when ECOWAS decided on sanctions against Bamako in 2022, the Senegalese economy was affected. »

“Better negotiate with European countries”

The future of ECOWAS and the CFA Franc, symbol of “Françafrique” that putschists like Bassirou Diomaye Faye want to see disappear, but also the security issues in a region plagued by armed terrorist groups should be at the heart of the discussions that the Senegalese will have with his counterparts in Bamako and Ouagadougou.

Positioning itself as a regional leader must also allow it to achieve other ambitions. An official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who requested anonymity, emphasizes: “ These trips to the region are also to better negotiate with European countries. On issues such as migration or economic agreements, he has every interest in making his counterparts aware of his views. »

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Voter expectations relate to these subjects “ which combine diplomacy, economics and domestic issues », assures Sambou Ansou, member of the national communications secretariat of Pastef (African Patriots of Senegal for work, ethics and fraternity) – the party founded by President Bassirou Diomaye Faye and Prime Minister Ousmane Sonko.

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During his campaign, the Pastef candidate promised to renegotiate the fishing agreements signed with the European Union as well as the gas and oil contracts concluded with foreign operators. Themes that he discussed with the President of the European Council Charles Michel, visiting Dakar on April 23, calling for a “ partnership redesigned, renovated “.

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An official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who requested anonymity, underlines the symbolic significance of the visit to Dakar, in mid-May, of Paul Kagame, the Rwandan leader. “ Kagame embodies African sovereignty, an uninhibited relationship with the West, and this speaks to Diomaye Faye and contributes to his popularity among young people. »

Bassirou Diomaye Faye will then prepare for his trip to France, scheduled for June 20, during which he should meet Emmanuel Macron. “ In the region and beyond, Diomaye Faye wants to accept the rupture but also ensure continuity », concludes Mamadou Lamine Sarr, who teaches political science at Cheikh Hamidou Kane University in Dakar.

Jules Crétois

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