In Senegal, opposition leader Ousmane Sonko says he’s been summoned to appear in court five different times since March and now wants assurances of his safety before he appears again, citing a lack of trust in the courts.
Sonko on Monday received a six-month suspended sentence and US$336,000 fine on a defamation charge filed by the country’s tourism minister, Mame Mbaye Niang. Sonko did not attend the hearing, according to reports.
It followed a March judgment in which Sonko was forced to appear after security forces removed him from his car in Dakar, sparking protests in the city. The new sentence, an appeal of the two-month decision made in March, may prevent Sonko’s presidential candidacy in 2024 if he decides to run again as planned. He also faces a rape accusation with a trial to begin May 16.
Sonko and supporters of his Pastef Les Patriotes party say President Macky Sall, elected in 2012, and his government have targeted Sonko in order to keep him from challenging Sall.
Sonko placed third in Senegal’s 2019 presidential elections and protests since have demonstrated popular support for his leadership, including clashes in 2021 that led to 14 deaths. Sall, in a departure from the West African nation’s reputation for stability and democratic principles, has shut down opposition voices and failed to deliver on promised reforms, with Sonko a frequent target.
Last month, Sonko spearheaded a campaign of more than 100 political parties and civil society groups opposed to Sall serving a third term, which the president disputes is not a violation of Senegal’s constitution if he chooses to run. The F24 Movement of Vital Forces plans demonstrations against a third-term Sall on Friday
“Macky Sall, your predecessors served their terms and left Senegal in stability and peace,” Sonko said on Monday. “Do the same.”