Senegalese Opposition’s Legal Battle Continues

Senegalese Opposition’s Legal Battle Continues


Back to the Courts

Senegalese opposition leader Ousmane Sonko’s electoral bid is headed back to the courts once again, as a Dakar (the Senegalese capital) court is set to once again examine whether or not he should be instated upon the electoral rolls, for the nations’ 2024 elections.

Ousmane Sonko has long had legal issues which have seen him be removed from the electoral rolls. He initially was barred from candidacy in June 2023. In October of 2023, however, a court annulled his removal from electoral rolls. On November 17th, a ruling from Senegal’s Supreme Court overturned this, once again barring him from the electoral rolls. The Supreme Court decided, when doing so, that the case should be retried by the Dakar court. On December 12th, the Dakar court is to hold this retrial.

A History of Legal Battles, who is Ousmane Sonko..?

The present legal battles are far from the first that have involved Sonko. But just who is Ousmane Sonko..? Sonko is one of the leading oppositionists against Senegalese President Macky Sall. He founded the Senegalese political party the ‘African Patriots of Senegal for Work, Ethics and Fraternity’ (PASTEF), and prior to his entry into politics worked as a tax inspector, during which he exposed a Canadian company using mineral sands processing plants in Senegal as offshore tax havens. He was terminated as a tax inspector after this.

In 2014, he founded PASTEF, and eventually served as a member of the National Assembly from 2017-2022. In 2019 he ran for President, and came in 3rd place against President Macky Sall with 16% of the vote. During 2022 local elections, his political coalition saw some successes against Sall’s coalition. During parliamentary elections in the same year they managed to garner a third of the total seats in the National Assembly.

President Macky Sall (Photo from Ludovic Marin/AFP).

Sonko’s critics have accused him of holding connections with the Muslim Brotherhood. Politically, Sonko pushes for tax reform, tougher laws on homosexuality (which is already criminalized in Senegal), as well as expanded use of the death penalty.

In March 2021, Sonko was arrested over alleged rape charges from a worker at a massage parlor, charges he said were falsified and politically motivated. His initial arrest sparked protests which saw a hefty crackdown by the government, and resulted in the deaths of at least 13 people, and the arrest of many more. A few days after protests began, Sonko was released but under the condition he could not leave the country.

Two years later, on June 1st 2023, Sonko was cleared of the rape charges, however instead was charged with “corrupting the youth”, and sentenced to two years in prison. He was not arrested until July 28th. His party, PASTEF, was dissolved by the government only 3 days later on July 31st. His arrest and the dissolution of his party triggered renewed nation-wide protests, during which the government banned tik-tok. Sonko was hospitalized on August 6th after beginning a hunger strike in protest of his re-arrest.

A photo from a pro-Sonko protest in March 2023 (Photo from AFP/John Wessels).

Parts of Sonko’s legal team have been arrested, including Franco-Spanish lawyer Juan Branco, who was arrested in August.

Since President Sall’s election in 2012, over 500 people in the opposition have been incarcerated, with several opponents accusing him of fabricating charges.

President Macky Sall is not running in the 2024 election.

Sébastien Gray
Sébastien Gray
Sébastien Gray is a published journalist and historicist with over 5 years experience in writing. His primary focus is on East and West African affairs.
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