African NewsNews

Senegal opposition leader’s party says court ruling politically motivated

May 9, 2023 | By Diadie Ba |

DAKAR (Reuters) – The party of Senegalese opposition leader Ousmane Sonko on Tuesday rejected a court ruling that could preclude him from running in next year’s election as judicial harassment aimed at sidelining a rival of President Macky Sall.

The statement is the first reaction from Sonko’s side to a court decision on Monday to extend his suspended sentence in a libel case to a length that could make the popular politician ineligible to stand in the February presidential election, if not appealed.

“This verdict, concocted at the Palais de la Republique (presidential residence), hardly surprises us and does not change anything about the unanimous decision of our party to put forward the candidacy of … Sonko for the presidential election,” his party Pastef said.

The authorities have rejected Sonko and his supporters’ allegations that the justice system is being used to shut him out of the presidential race – a standoff that has fuelled unrest in the usually peaceful West African nation.

Pastef did not say if Sonko planned to appeal the ruling at the Supreme Court within the six-day deadline, but said it would hold a press conference on Wednesday to share an update on “the party’s action plan to resist the oppression of Macky Sall.”

Senegal, which gained independence from France in 1960, is widely viewed as one of the most stable democracies in West Africa, but Sonko’s long-running legal saga and concern Sall may try to run for a third term has fuelled protests over the last few years.

Senegal’s constitution only allows two presidential terms, but some fear Sall will use a recent tweak to the constitution to reset his mandate, which ends in 2024, allowing him to run again.

Tensions are running high in the wake of Monday’s ruling. A rally is planned in Dakar for Friday to show public opposition to Sall’s supposed third term ambitions and the authorities’ alleged misuse of the justice system for political ends.

(Writing by Alessandra Prentice, editing by Mark Heinrich)

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