Senegal: Ousmane Sonko, a politico-judicial saga in eight dates

The Senegalese government announced on Monday (July 31st) the dissolution of the party of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, a few hours after his indictment and detention on charges of "insurrection" and "conspiracy". Last episode in a politico-judicial saga that began two and a half years ago.

Ousmane Sonko, here in Ziguinchor on July 3, 2022. © AFP - MUHAMADOU BITTAYE

Text by: Internet Writing


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February 8, 2021 : Summons for alleged rape

On the morning of 8 February, the Senegalese opponent was summoned to the gendarmerie for a rape case. Six days earlier, a young employee of a Dakar massage parlor filed a complaint against him for repeated rapes with threats.

In a statement to the press, Ousmane Sonko rejected this accusation. The deputy of Pastef (African Patriots of Senegal for Work, Ethics and Fraternity), who came third in the 2019 presidential election and presented as the leader of the opposition, denounces a machination where he sees the hand of the head of state Macky Sall. Enjoying parliamentary immunity, he announced that he would not respond "to any summons from the gendarmerie if the legal route is not respected".

His immunity was finally lifted by the National Assembly on 26 February after two hours of heated debate. Ninety-eight MPs voted in favour, one against and two abstained.

" READ ALSO Senegal: Adji Sarr comes out of silence a year after his accusations against Ousmane Sonko

March 3, 2021 : Arrest and three days of rioting

While going to court accompanied by a crowd of supporters to respond to the summons of the investigating judge, Ousmane Sonko was arrested and placed in police custody for "disturbing public order". The cause: tensions caused by a dispute with the prefecture over the route of the convoy. This arrest triggered three days of riots in several cities of the country, which left at least five dead.

On 5 March, it was in a tense climate that the opponent was finally presented to the senior investigating judge who charged him with rape and death threats. Released on bail three days later and placed under judicial control, the Pastef leader calls on his supporters to mobilize "much more", but "peaceful". "The revolution is already underway. Nothing and no one can stop it," he told reporters.

January 23, 2022: Victory in Ziguinchor

This Sunday evening, January 23, Ousmane Sonko does not wait for the proclamation of the official results to celebrate his victory in the municipal and departmental elections that are ending. The opponent has just won the mayoralty of Ziguinchor, the largest city in Casamance, an important step towards the presidential election of 2024 for which he does not hide his ambitions.

Because this victory is not only local, observes RFI's correspondent in Dakar, Théa Ollivier. During the campaign, Ousmane Sonko travelled throughout the country to support the candidates of the opposition coalition Yewwi Askan Wi. A good way to place your pawns for the upcoming legislative and presidential elections.

August 18, 2022: Presidential candidacy

Alone in front of the press, a poster "Horizon 2024" in the colors of Pastef in the background, the opponent Ousmane Sonko announces his candidacy for the presidential election of February 2024. His priorities in the meantime: encourage young first-time voters to register to vote and densify his party's territorial presence.

The opponent is in a good dynamic. The inter-coalition of which he is one of the leaders has just won 80 seats in the legislative elections of 31 July, just behind the presidential coalition which, with 82 seats, loses its absolute majority in the National Assembly.

8 May 2023 : Conviction on appeal for defamation and public insult

Already under indictment for rape, Ousmane Sonko was sentenced on Monday, May 8 on appeal to a six-month suspended prison sentence for defamation and public insult to Mame Mbaye Niang. The mayor of Zinguinchor, absent at the hearing, had publicly accused the Minister of Tourism of having been pinned in a report of the General State Inspectorate for embezzlement. In addition to this suspended prison sentence, the Court of Appeal confirmed the amount of 200 million CFA francs in damages set at first instance.

While this conviction threatens his eligibility for the presidential election, Ousmane Sonko calls on his supporters to mobilize and resist. "Only God can prevent my candidacy (...) No human being can stop it," he said the next day in a video address. The opponent cries again at a plot hatched by Macky Sall to exclude him from the presidential race, while his opponents accuse him of instrumentalizing the street to escape justice.

26 May 2023: The "caravan of freedom" on its way to Dakar

From Zinguichor, Ousmane Sonko embarked on his return journey to Dakar at the head of a long popular convoy. This "convoy of freedom" appears as a new act of defiance against the government, after the refusal of the opponent to appear at his trial for rape.

After spending the night in Kolda, the convoy had to stop for several hours due to clashes between Ousmane Sonko's supporters and the police. According to a statement from the Kolda prosecutor, one person was killed in the clashes. The "caravan" was finally stopped on the 28th by the police, who forcibly brought the opponent back to Dakar.

1 June 2023 : Conviction for "corruption of youth"

Ousmane Sonko is sentenced to two years in prison for "corruption of youth" in the case between him and Adji Sarr, who accused him of repeated rape. On 23 May, at the end of a marathon day of hearings held in the absence of the accused, the prosecution requested ten years' imprisonment for rape or five years' imprisonment for the offence of "corruption of youth".

Violence erupts in several neighborhoods of Dakar, leaving dozens dead.

31 July 2023 : Indictment and dissolution of Pastef

Ousmane Sonko is charged with "calls for insurrection and conspiracy" against the state and detained. The opponent had been arrested three days earlier at his home after "snatching" his phone from a gendarme who, according to him, was filming it without his consent. This new indictment further compromises his participation in the presidential election of February 2024, for which Macky Sall gave up at the beginning of the month to run.

The Senegalese government announced the dissolution of its party. The Minister of the Interior justifies this decision by the "frequent" calls of the Pastef to "insurrectional movements" that caused many deaths in March 2021 and June 2023. Riots broke out, leaving two dead in Zinguichor and another in Pikine.

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