Senegal opposition leader Ousmane Sonko hospitalized, party holds authorities responsible


Ousmane Sonko, the jailed Senegalese opposition leader, who has been on a hunger strike since shortly after his arrest last month, was admitted to a hospital in Dakar on Sunday. The hospitalization was confirmed by his lawyer and supporters. Sonko’s party, PASTEF, released a statement stating that he was admitted for emergency care, but they did not provide details about his condition.

The opposition leader’s hunger strike began on July 30, just two days after his arrest. Ousmane Sonko, aged 49, is a declared candidate for the February 2024 presidential election. Since 2021, he has been embroiled in a bitter power struggle with the authorities after being placed under investigation in a moral corruption case.

Previously, on June 1, Sonko was sentenced in absentia to two months in prison. He and his supporters claimed the conviction to be politically motivated, leading to clashes resulting in fatalities, with differing death tolls reported by the government, Amnesty International, and his PASTEF party.

The situation escalated further when Sonko was arrested again in late July, and on Monday, he was charged with fomenting insurrection, resulting in the dissolution of his party and sparking more protests, which tragically led to two deaths.

The recent convictions and charges against Ousmane Sonko raise concerns about his eligibility to run for the presidency next year. However, his lawyers assert that he can still run, pointing out that as Sonko had refused to attend his trial in the moral corruption case and was convicted in absentia, the law requires a retrial now that he has been arrested.

Notably, Sonko had written to the courts the previous week, making it clear that he did not accept his conviction, demanding that it be quashed and he be retried. However, Prosecutor Abdou Karim Diop has rejected this interpretation of the law.

In a separate development, Senegal’s parliament passed a law on Saturday that restores the right of two key opposition deputies, Khalifa Sall and Karim Wade, to run in the country’s presidential election next year. The law allows individuals convicted but later pardoned or amnestied to be eligible for office, thereby paving the way for the two opposition figures’ participation in the upcoming election.

As Ousmane Sonko’s health remains a matter of concern, tensions continue to rise ahead of the presidential election, with political implications that are yet to unfold.

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