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The BBC's Mark Doyle reports
"The ceremony was designed to be different from previous presidential inaugurations"
 real 28k

Sunday, 2 April, 2000, 06:11 GMT 07:11 UK
New era for Senegal

Large crowds attended the ceremony in Dakar
By West Africa correspondent Mark Doyle

A former veteran opposition leader of the West African state of Senegal has been sworn in as president, ending 40 years of de facto one-party rule.

Abdoulaye Wade won a closely-fought election last month that was widely praised as one of the fairest and most peaceful ever seen in the region.

Shorlty after the swearing-in he named a former leading opposition figure, Moustapha Niasse, as his prime minister.

Pro-democracy activists hope that the West African state's example will be followed in other parts of the continent.

Abdou Diouf
Abdou Diouf conceded defeat graciously
Mr Wade is a sprightly 74-year-old who has been contesting elections in Senegal as an opposition candidate for over 25 years.

He won last month's elections on a platform calling for change, saying that the former ruling socialist party was corrupt and inefficient.

His call for change strongly appealed to young Senegalese - many of whom are unemployed.

The new president's ability to meet these voters' expectations of jobs and a better life is very limited.

Peaceful change

Senegal is a poor country with a simmering secessionist rebellion taking place in its southern Casamance region.

Former president Abdou Diouf
Former president Abdou Diouf (left) grabs the ear of his successor
The newly-elected president has said that solving this rebellion by peaceful means is a top priority.

But Saturday's inauguration was mainly be an occasion for celebrations.

President Wade was sworn into office in a football stadium on the outskirts of the Senegalese capital, Dakar.

An anthem to Africa, written by Mr Wade himself, was sung by the mainly young people who crammed into the stadium.

Most Senegalese voters are proud that they have brought about a peaceful change in government of a sort which is rare in Africa.

Free and fair poll

Several of the African heads of state who attended the inauguration are military officers who seized power by force.

Last month's elections were peaceful, partly because the outgoing Senegalese leader, Abdou Diouf, graciously accepted defeat when the vote went against him.

However the poll was also unusually free and fair thanks to Senegal's newly-established independent radio stations.

These stations helped to make the voting and the vote-counting transparent and so prevented much of the cheating that occurred in previous elections.

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21 Mar 00 | Africa
UN praises Senegal elections
20 Mar 00 | Africa
Senegal votes for change
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