Wed. Apr 24th, 2024

S&eacute ;negal: opponents Sonko and Faye are released from prison

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Several Senegalese were jubilant after the release of Ousmane Sonko and Bassirou Diomaye Faye, the main opponents of Macky Sall, the Senegalese president.

Agence France-Presse

The Senegalese opponent Ousmane Sonko and his second, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, presidential candidate, were released from prison Thursday evening, ten days before the election, provoking the jubilation of thousands of Dakar residents who spontaneously took to the streets of the capital.

They came out in front of us. That’s it, one of their lawyers, Me Cheikh Koureyssi Ba, told AFP. An AFP journalist saw a car leaving in a procession from Cape Manuel prison through a large crowd drawn by the news of the release.

Ousmane Sonko, the main actor in a deadly standoff with power since 2021, was disqualified from the presidential election by the Constitutional Council in January. His camp, with his consent, nominated Mr. Faye as its candidate in his place. Mr. Faye's candidacy is one of 19 selected for the March 24 ballot.

The release from Cape Manuel prison, yet another twist in the Sonko saga, injects a new reagent with unknown effects into the current electoral campaign.

The driving power commonly attributed to Mr. Sonko and his popularity among young people are likely to influence the dynamics.

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Even before the release from prison, the news of which spread like wildfire on social networks, crowds of Dakar residents took to the streets to celebrate, sing and dance.

Cars and pedestrians waving Senegalese flags took over the access road to the Cap Manuel prison, south of the capital, where the two opponents were detained.

Gnoune Sonko lanou beug (We love Sonko), their supporters chanted in Wolof near the prison.

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Ousmane Sonko is particularly popular with the country's young people who want political renewal. (File photo)

A large crowd gathered near Ousmane Sonko's home, in another district of the capital, a few kilometers away.

It's joy. It's incredible. They released Ousmane Sonko! exclaimed Mamadou Mballo Mané, 31 years old.

Mr. Sonko, 49, founder and president of the Pastef party, had been detained since July 28, 2023. His arrest completed more than two years of power struggle with the government and the justice system, which gave rise to various episodes of clashes, of looting and ransacking.

The release of Mr. Sonko and Mr. Faye, who for many embody the break with the Macky Sall presidency and economically trying years, was anticipated as a major event for several days after the adoption, on March 6, of an amnesty law passed at the instigation of President Macky Sall.

Senegal was then going through a serious crisis caused by the postponement of the presidential election and the head of state said he was seeking appeasement around the election, after three years of political agitation. p>

It is unknown whether MM. Sonko and Faye were released under the amnesty law, but their release coincides with the law's implementation deadlines.

Mr. Sonko supported the candidacy of his number two, Bassirou Diomaye Faye. The secretary general of Pastef had himself been detained since April 2023. He was charged with contempt of a magistrate, defamation and acts likely to compromise public peace, according to one of his lawyers, after the dissemination of a critical message against justice in the Sonko case.

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Senegal experienced significant unrest between June 1 and 3 after the conviction of two years in prison for opponent Ousmane Sonko in a morals case. (Archive photo)

Although much less popular, Mr. Faye, benefiting from the Sonko effect, is considered one of the favorites of the most open presidential election since independence in 1960.

His camp campaigned under the slogan Ousmane mooy Diomaye (Ousmane, it's is Diomaye, in Wolof). He demanded the release of Mr. Faye in the name of equal opportunities between candidates. The latter had until then been prevented from recording his campaign messages for public television, unlike other competitors.

Mr. Faye's program declines the themes of the sovereignist and pan-Africanist speech of Mr. Sonko, who, with his diatribes against the state mafia, multinationals and the economic and political influence exercised according to him by the x27;former French colonial power, made the success of Pastef.

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