Ousmane Sonko, a prominent critic of Senegalese President Macky Sall, has been charged and taken into custody following his appearance before a judge, as confirmed by his legal representatives.
The Senegalese opposition figure, Ousmane Sonko, was charged with fomenting insurrection on Monday, July 31, just three days after his arrest at his residence, as reported by one of his lawyers speaking to Agence France-Presse (AFP).
The charges and custody were imposed on Sonko, known for his vocal opposition to President Macky Sall’s administration, after he appeared before a judge. Interior Minister Aly Ngouille Ndiaye, less than two hours after Sonko’s indictment, announced the dissolution of Sonko’s political party, PASTEF. The party was accused of “frequently” inciting insurrection, which led to violence and loss of life.
The public prosecutor has added seven new charges against Sonko, relating to his past statements, rallies, and events since 2021, including the recent incident at his home that resulted in his arrest. The charges encompass undermining state security, association with a terrorist organization, theft, and disseminating false news. Sonko’s legal team informed local media that an eighth charge of disseminating false news was included in the latest developments.
It is important to note that the legal case brought against Sonko is separate from a previous high-profile moral corruption case, where he was sentenced to two years in jail in absentia on June 1. This conviction made him ineligible to run in the upcoming presidential election scheduled for next year and triggered clashes that led to at least 16 fatalities.
Sonko’s defense team has argued that his recent arrest nullifies his prior conviction in the moral corruption case since he had been tried in absentia.
How it all Began…
Senegal’s main opposition party declared Ousmane Sonko, its firebrand leader, as its candidate for the upcoming presidential elections on February 25, 2024, despite questions about his eligibility following a jail sentence. The party announced that Sonko was unanimously voted in as their candidate by delegates in Senegal’s 46 departments and among the diaspora, with results validated by the party’s regulatory authority.
Sonko’s passionate following among the disaffected youth is a result of his fiery campaign against President Macky Sall, accusing him of corruption and potential dictatorship. His rise has led to deadly clashes between his supporters and security forces, causing significant turbulence in the otherwise stable country.
While Sonko’s appointment was anticipated, the authorities imposed a ban on a rally in Dakar where it was to be confirmed publicly. Currently confined to his home in Dakar since May 28 by security forces, Sonko is expected to make a public comment later.
However, on June 1, Sonko received a two-year sentence after a trial for charges of sexual abuse, leading to violent protests in which 16 people died. The conviction has raised doubts about his eligibility as a candidate. Additionally, on May 8, an appeal court handed him a six-month suspended term for slander, further complicating the matter.
Nonetheless, Sonko’s party, PASTEF, dismissed any doubts about his eligibility, asserting that he still enjoys his political and civil rights fully and that no one can prevent him from participating in the presidential elections.
Sonko himself warned of “indescribable chaos” if he were barred from running during a recent interview with France 24 television. The tensions following his conviction were further fueled by expectations that President Sall would declare his intentions for the elections. However, Sall surprised both critics and supporters by announcing on July 3 that he would not seek re-election, signaling the end of his second presidential term, the constitutional maximum. Some of his supporters argue that a 2016 constitutional revision reset the term clock, allowing him to run again.