Conflicts & War

Protests erupt in Senegal after opposition leader sentenced to jail

Dakar, Jun 1 (EFE).- Senegal’s Yewwi Askan Wi (Liberate the People) opposition coalition called on President Macky Sall to resign Thursday amid violent protests spurred by the prison sentence imposed on presidential hopeful Ousmane Sonko.

Accusing the incumbent of “high treason,” Yewwi urged the population to “maintain the mobilization … to safeguard the rights and freedoms of our fellow citizens, national unity, and Senegalese democracy Sonko, whose PASTEF (Patriots of Senegal for Ethics, Work and Fraternity) is the largest party in the coalition, finished third in the 2019 presidential election and is seen as the most formidable obstacle to Sall’s expected bid for a third term in 2024.

But if Sonko’s conviction Thursday on charges of corrupting a young person is upheld, he will be barred from running next year.

News of the verdict and two-year prison sentence led to disturbances in Dakar and other major cities such as Ziguinchor (Sonko’s hometown), Bignona, Saint-Louis, and Mbour.

Protesters erected barricades, set fire to police cars and other vehicles, and attacked businesses – including gas stations – and public buildings.

Police responded with tear gas.

Sonko, 48, was accused of raping a woman in 2021 and making death threats against her. Though the court acquitted him on those charges, they found him guilty of immoral behavior toward an individual under the age of 21.

Proclaiming his innocence, Sonko boycotted the trial and dismissed the accusations as politically motivated.

In a statement, PASTEF described the court verdict as the “final stage” of a conspiracy launched by Sall with the aim of sidelining Senegal’s most prominent opposition politician.

Sonko’s party urged the Senegalese police and military to side with the people.

Security forces surrounded Sonko’s home in the capital last Sunday and the justice minister said that he can be arrested “at any time.”

At least 14 people died in March 2021 in protests that followed Sonko’s detention as he was headed to court in Dakar for a hearing in the just-concluded case.

The former tax inspector has won popularity among Senegalese youth by criticizing Sall for poor governance and corruption and for failing to resist French “neocolonialism.” EFE mrgz/dr

Related Articles

Back to top button