DAKAR, 4 March 2021 – At least one person has been killed in the street protests which erupted Wednesday following the arrest of Senegal’s opposition leader Ousmane Sonko.
Police are charging Sonko with disturbing public order after hundreds his supporters clashed with police while the opposition leader and member of parliament was being led to court to face rape charges.
A beauty salon employee filed the rape charges against Sonko who placed third in the 2019 presidential elections in the west African country and has been seen as potential future president of Senegal.
Sonko, 46, has denied he reaped the beauty salon employee who has claimed the crime happened at her work place where Sonko came to get massages.
Judicial authorities in Dakar say Sonko will also face charges of participating in illegal protests.
Sonko’s parliamentary immunity was lifted last Friday following a vote by MPs, opening the way for him to face questioning during the court session held Wednesday.
Supporters of the opposition leader as well as Sonko himself have said the charges are politically motivated and really meant to prevent him from running for president in 2024.
Police had to fire tear gas to disperse opposition supporters demonstrating in the streets of Dakar, setting up barricades, throwing stones at the police and burning used tires.
Sonko has accused Senegalese President Macky Sall of manoeuvring to run for a third term in office in violation of the Senegalese Constitution – a claim which Sall has not dignified with a response.
Supporters followed the opposition leader from his home as he headed to court Wednesday, but his convoy was prevented by gendarmes from drumming up support from students at the Cheikh Anta Diop University in the capital, Dakar.