Senegal: the main opponent of the arrested power

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Dakar, the capital of Senegal, experienced a lot of unrest on Wednesday due to clashes between the police and supporters of deputy Ousmane Sonko, main opposition figure in Senegal, arrested on his way to court where he was to be heard on charges of rape. Mr. Sonko’s journey to the courthouse was punctuated by clashes between his supporters and police and gendarmes, and he never arrived at his meeting with the judge. His arrest on the way, at midday, for disturbing public order, provoked violent confrontations in the popular district of Colobane, around the gendarmerie premises where he was supposed to be held and whose armored vehicles protected the people. access. These incidents, in a capital placed early in the morning under high police surveillance in anticipation of Mr. Sonko’s meeting with the judge, are the latest episode in a case that has shaken the political world for a month, with the presidential election of 2024 as a backdrop. Mr. Sonko, 46, leader of the Pastef-Les Patriotes party and third in the 2019 presidential election, has been the target since early February by a complaint for rape and death threats filed by an employee of a beauty salon to which he went get a massage to, he says, relieve his back pain.

Sonko escorted by his supporter before being arrested

Mr. Sonko, a personality with an anti-system profile and an impetuous speech mixing economic patriotism and denouncing bad governance, denies the accusations. This strictly practicing Muslim is crying out for a plot hatched by President Macky Sall himself to dismiss him from the next presidential election. A young crowd, which constitutes an important part of his support, gathered around his house as he got into the car, surrounded by his guards, already behind on the scheduled time of his face-to-face meeting. 9 hours with the judge, theoretically a few tens of minutes away.

“We are here for President Ousmane Sonko. If we touch it, we will retaliate, ”said one supporter. The procession followed by several hundred supporters and escorted by the police then progressed in a din of horns and traditional songs to his glory. She was stopped several times by tear gas fire intended to disperse the enthusiastic groups accompanying her or forming in her path.

It gave rise to a standoff of several hours between the delegation and the police on its route, until the politician was arrested and taken to the gendarmerie in Colobane where he was, according to his lawyers, placed in police custody. Djiby Diagne, one of his lawyers for Ousmane Sonko, saw his arrest as a subterfuge in order to “have control over him and keep him away from his audience” and then present him to the judge in charge of the rape investigation. presumed. The vicinity of the gendarmerie then saw groups of young people harassing for hours with stones dozens of police and gendarmes in riot gear. They retaliated with tear gas and stun grenades, causing the protesters to flow back into the adjacent streets littered with projectiles. The press also reported incidents in the university area. No report has been communicated of the number of injured or arrested. The Sonko affair had already sparked clashes in early February and gave rise to dozens of arrests.

Like an air of deja vu

It has generated parallels with the troubles of Karim Wade, son and former minister of ex-president Abdoulaye Wade, and of Khalifa Sall, ousted mayor of Dakar, both struck by convictions for financial embezzlement and prevented from running. in the 2019 presidential election. Mr. Sall, 59, elected in 2012 and re-elected in 2019, remains uncertain about the possibility of a candidate for a third term, despite the limit of two, introduced after a constitutional revision approved in 2016. Asked recently about the accusations of a set-up on his part, the Head of State replied: “I have enough things to do (not to) plot such low things. ”

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