Senegal: Who Will Be President-elect Bassirou Faye’s First Lady?

By John Ikani

In the exciting lead-up to Senegal’s presidential transition, one question has everyone talking: Who will be Senegal’s leading lady – Marie Khone Faye or Absa Faye?

The two remarkable women find themselves in the spotlight as the wives of President-elect Bassirou Diomaye Faye, who’s about to step into the shoes of President Macky Sall on April 2nd.

Their presence was felt on March 24th as they stood by their husband, Faye, while he cast his vote in Senegal’s western region. Faye, at 44, has kids with his first wife, Khone, while Absa is yet to have children with the soon-to-be president, adding an interesting twist to the story.

Bassirou Faye with his wives Marie Khone Faye (L) and Absa Faye (R) after casting their vote on March 24th election.

In Senegal, where over 95 percent of the population are Muslims, it’s common for people to have more than one spouse. Polygamous marriages make up about 35 percent of all marriages here, reflecting a cultural norm that runs deep.

While Senegal’s rulebook doesn’t spell out the role of the first lady, those who’ve held the position in the past have often played significant roles in shaping the country’s direction.

Marieme Faye Sal, the current first lady and wife of President Macky Sall, has been a notable figure during her husband’s time in office.

As Marieme prepares to step down on April 2nd, everyone’s wondering who will step into her shoes. It’s ultimately up to President-elect Faye to decide. But both Khone and Absa can expect perks like security, a presidential budget, and other luxuries that come with the title.

The situation brings to mind South Africa’s experience back in 2009 when President Jacob Zuma’s multiple wives raised eyebrows. The question of who should be the first lady between elder wife Sizakele Kumalo and her younger counterpart Ntuli Zuma sparked discussions, leading Zuma to clarify that South Africa’s constitution doesn’t recognize the position of first lady. Consequently, each of his wives was called the first lady during his time as president.

Senegal: Who Will Be President-elect Bassirou Faye's First Lady?
Zuma wed Gertrude Sizakele Khumalo (m) in 1973 before going on to marry Nompumelelo Ntuli (L) in 2008 and later Thobeka Madiba (R) in 2010, a year after becoming President in 2009.

While the title of first lady might not come with an official job description, those who hold it often use their platform to champion important causes like education, healthcare, and women’s rights.

However, for some other wives to presidents, the role of the First Lady holds extreme importance, leading them to fiercely defend their position. In Kenya, former President Mwai Kibaki, who has since passed away, held a press conference in March 2009 to assert that he was married to only one woman, Lucy Kibaki

Speculation was rife about President Kibaki having a second wife named Mary Wambui. However, during a rare public address, Kibaki, known for his reserved demeanour, firmly denied any association with Wambui.

He emphasized, “I want to make it very clear. I have only one dear wife, Lucy, who is here. And I do not have any other.”

In the end, whether it’s Marie Khone Faye or Absa Faye or both who take on the role of Senegal’s first lady, they’ll have a chance to make a positive impact and represent the people of Senegal with dignity and grace.

Credit Gist New Today News in Newspaper Nigeria Headlines

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