The major opposition coalition in Senegal issued a call for protests on Monday ahead of the defamation trial scheduled for Thursday for its fiery leader Ousmane Sonko, who is widely anticipated to run for president the following year.
The Yewwi Askan Wi coalition, whose name translates from the local Wolof language to “Liberate the People,” declared it would defy any restrictions placed on the demonstrations, which it planned for Tuesday and Wednesday.
Mame Mbaye Niang, the minister of tourism, has sued Sonko for “defamation, insult, and forgery,” and Sonko is scheduled to appear in court on Thursday. In connection with his administration of a community agriculture program, he claims Sonko has slandered him.
The group planned a “giga gathering” for Tuesday afternoon, followed by “national marches” all throughout Senegal on Thursday, via social media on Monday.
“We will demonstrate with or without authorisation,” Sonko said at a press conference last Friday. “We are not calling for a coup d’etat or a civil war, but for the exercise of a constitutional right.”
The demonstrations will denounce the “arbitrary arrests” of journalists and political activists and “the instrumentalisation of the justice system against opponents,” Sonko added.
On February 10, after a Sonko rally had been prohibited, violence, looting, and rancour broke out in the city of Mbacke in central Senegal. Dozens of people were arrested as a result.
The opposition claims that the government often forbids its protests.
The administration has refuted claims that political opponents’ rights have been violated, claiming that Senegal, a nation known for its stability in a region rife with political unrest, applies the law equally.
Sonko is also accused of rape and making death threats in addition to the defamation suit. These allegations stem from a complaint made by a staff member at the beauty parlour where Sonko was receiving a massage.
He was submitted to a criminal court on January 18 for those allegations.
Whether Sonko is permitted to run in the presidential elections scheduled for February 2024 may depend on the outcome of the two legal disputes.
President Macky Sall, who was re-elected in 2019 after being elected in 2012, hasn’t said whether he plans to circumvent the constitution and run for office a third time in 2019.
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