Thousands of Opposition Supporters Protest in Senegal

Thousands of Opposition Supporters Protest in Senegal (News Central TV)

On Tuesday, the first of three days of scheduled rallies in support of the prospective presidential candidate, who is facing a libel lawsuit that will begin this week, more than 10,000 supporters of Senegalese opposition leader Ousmane Sonko gathered at a field in the nation’s capital Dakar.

The protests are the most recent manifestation of escalating tensions in Senegal ahead of a 2024 election in which President Macky Sall could compete for a contentious third term, which the opposition claims is unconstitutional.

Despite extensive conjecture, Sall, 61, has not acknowledged nor denied that he intends to run. He would compete in the election against a field of opponents lead by Sonko, who finished third in the previous election but has since gained influence, especially among urban youth who are disillusioned.

Macky Sall

Senegal updated its constitution in 2016, changing the length of the presidency from seven to five years.

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Under the previous constitution, Sall was initially elected in 2012 for a seven-year term. He was re-elected in 2019, and some of his supporters have argued that the new constitution allows him to run for another term. About his plans for 2024, Sall has refrained from saying.

“Macky Sall holds the peace of the country in his hands. If he comes out and says that he is not a candidate, the country will be at peace, we could stop the protests,” said Codou, a protester who traveled from the nearby city of Thies.

Sall’s adversaries charge him with attempting to stifle the opposition by making false accusations and conducting political trials prior to the election. The administration disputes this.

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Sonko, 48, is scheduled to return to court on Thursday to continue the proceedings in his libel case for allegedly falsely accusing the tourist minister of theft.

In 2021, Sonko will also stand trial on allegations of rape and making a death threat to a worker at a beauty parlor, both of which he denies.

“We are denouncing a great injustice. Sonko is hope for the youths. Macky Sall just wants to push away Sonko. He’ll do everything to stop Sonko from running,” said Sonko supporter Khadidatou Faye. “We’ll not accept that injustice. It will be Sonko or nothing.”

Faye and thousands of opposition supporters milled around a field in Dakar’s Yoff neighborhood on Tuesday, waving Senegalese flags and photos of Sonko, who arrived in the field atop a vehicle in a convoy, greeted by cheering supporters.

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Sonko urged his supporters to join him in court on Thursday for the libel trial. There was a heavy security presence in the area, including dozens of anti-riot vehicles.

Police are quick to crack down on protests in Senegal. The last pro-Sonko protests, which broke out after he left court last month, were dispersed with tear gas.

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