What does Senegal’s new president have in store for LGBTQ people?

Bassirou Diomaye Faye this week, after his election. (Photo courtesy of X/Twitter)

Bassirou Diomaye Faye after his election on March 24. (Photo courtesy of X/Twitter)

Bassirou Diomaye Faye was elected President of Senegal on Sunday, collecting 51% of the votes compared to his challenger, Amadou Ba, from the ruling party of outgoing president Macky Sall.

Diomaye Faye is close to anti-LGBT activists in the country, including Ousmane Sonko, and his African Patriots of Senegal for Work, Ethics and Fraternity (PASTEF) party was endorsed by a broad conservative coalition that included And Samm Djikko Yi (“Together for the Defense of Values” in Wolof), a homophobic pressure group.

Our partner site Erasing 76 Crimes spoke to Dakar resident Medoune, who is bisexual, about what the election means for queer people in a country where same-sex relations are already punishable by 5 years imprisonment and a fine of 1.5 million CFA francs (approximately US $2,470).

Erasing 76 Crimes: Who did you vote for on Sunday?

Former Senegal President Macky Sall (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Former Senegal President Macky Sall (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Medoune: I voted for Bassirou Diomaye Faye because I wanted a change of government and change for my country after 12 years of [cronyism] and authoritarian management with Macky Sall trying to hold on to power and using the justice system to lock up his opponents. In fact, right up to the end, I was afraid that the electoral process would be marred by irregularities.

Erasing 76 Crimes: Are you afraid that Senegal will become an Islamic republic because of the support that Islam has among the general public and civil society?

Medoune: This is a Western fantasy and a scarecrow that people outside Senegal like to brandish to frighten themselves and discredit the opposition to the former president, Macky Sall.

Notwithstanding the upsurge in armed Islamist attacks in the Sahel, this is an irrational fear that does not stand up to the facts. Senegalese society is complex, and even if there are Islamists in Senegal, there is a margin between societal conservatism, where homosexuality is already severely repressed, and the advent of an Islamic republic. What’s more, the Senegalese remain attached to certain cornerstones of the country, such as secularism and freedom.

Erasing 76 Crimes: Is Diomaye Faye homophobic?

Medoune: The new president comes from the same political background as Ousmane Sonko, who supported And Samm Djikko Yi’s demands that homosexuality should be punishable by 10 years’ imprisonment and fines of 5 million CFA francs (approx. US $8,250).

(Editor’s note: In January 2022, the Senegalese National Assembly refused to consider this bill, citing the country’s existing strict system of condemning homosexuality, which threatens a prison sentence of five years and “a fine” for same-sex intimacy.).

Today, there is no reason to believe that he is planning to treat the LGBT+ communities in a way that is very different. In any case, I’ve never heard him speak on the subject, and the election was about safeguarding democracy. That’s why people turned out to vote.

Diomaye Faye during his election campaign (ING: @dakarbuzz)

Source: African Human Rights Media Network member Erasing 76 Crimes.