Senegal's new president Macky Sall has taken the oath of office in a ceremony held one week after the country's longtime incumbent conceded defeat only hours after polls closed.
Hundreds gathered in their finest clothes at a hotel on Monday in Senegal's seaside capital for the brief, low-key ceremony.
Those who were not able to enter the tent set up outdoors for the ceremony watched it on a giant TV screen under
the shade of palm trees.
Tour buses shuttled visiting heads of states from neighbouring West African countries who planned a summit later in the day to discuss the growing political crisis in Mali, where rebels have seized towns through the country's north.
The presidential runoff vote solidified the country's reputation as one of the few mature democracies in West Africa, where the unpopular president was ousted at the ballot box instead of a coup.
Sall, 50, emerged from a field of more than a dozen opposition candidates in the first round of voting to face 85-year-old Abdoulaye Wade in the runoff vote late last month.
Sall received 65.8 per cent of ballots cast, compared to just 34.2 per cent for Abdoulaye Wade, the incumbent of 12 years.
Yet even with that strong electoral mandate, Sall now inherits the same economic woes that exacerbated Wade's downfall.
Many Senegalese complain that the cost of living has skyrocketed, with basic necessities such as fuel, rice and electricity becoming increasingly out of reach.
The country of 12 million has been plagued by frequent power cuts and growing unemployment.
Violent protests leading up to the election this year left at least six people dead, and many feared further violence if Wade did not accept defeat.
He surprised his nation and the world by gracefully conceding his loss, and calling Sall hours after polls closed to congratulate his opponent.
International observers praised both the first and second round of voting as transparent.
Sall served as prime minister under Wade and even ran his re-election campaign in 2007.
The two parted ways after Sall publicly questioned how Wade's son was spending public money. He later formed his own party and went on to become mayor of his hometown.
Wade himself first took office in 2000 after his predecessor graciously conceded in a historic moment for Senegal.
Whereas most African countries began holding elections post-independence in the 1960s, the Senegalese first cast their ballots 164 years ago starting in 1848 when France gave citizens in its territory the right to elect a deputy to the French parliament.
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|Timothy V. Gatto|