Bassirou Diomaye Faye took office as the youngest president in Senegal on Tuesday. He pledged to enact systemic reforms, strengthen sovereignty and bring back peace after years of turbulent unrest.

Senegal’s left-wing pan-Africanist Bassirou Diomaye Faye was sworn in on Tuesday as the country’s youngest president, pledging systemic change, greater sovereignty and calm after years of deadly turmoil.

The 44-year-old, who has never before held an elected office, swept to a first-round victory on a promise of radical reform, just 10 days after being released from prison.

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

“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 was among a group of political opponents freed from prison 10 days before the March 24 presidential ballot under an amnesty announced by previous president Macky Sall, who had tried to delay the vote.

Faye’s campaign was launched while he was still in detention.

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

The formal handover of power with Sall was to take place at the presidential palace in Dakar.

Reconciliation, Sovereignty

Working with his populist mentor Ousmane Sonko, who was barred from the election, Faye declared their priorities in his victory speech: national reconciliation, easing a cost-of-living crisis and fighting corruption.

On the campaign trail, he vowed to restore national sovereignty over key assets such as the oil, gas and fishing sectors.

Faye wants to leave the regional CFA franc, which he sees as a French colonial legacy, 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 hailed from Washington to Paris, via the African Union and the European Union.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Faye on Monday by telephone and “underscored the United States’ strong interest in deepening the partnership” between their two countries, the State Department said.

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.

New Generation of Politicians

Commonly known as Diomaye, or “the honorable one,” he won the election with 54.3% of the vote.

It was a remarkable turnaround after the government dissolved the Pastef party he founded with Sonko in 2014, and Sall postponed the election.

Faye and the government he will shortly face major challenges, as he does not have a majority in the National Assembly. He will have to build alliances to pass new laws, or call a legislative election, which will become an option from mid-November.

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

Many youths considered the future so bleak that they risked their lives to join the waves of migrants trying to reach Europe.