Release of Senegal’s Opposition Leader, Ousmane Sonko, Sparks Celebrations

Senegal’s opposition leader, Ousmane Sonko, has been liberated from detention, prompting jubilation both outside the prison confines and throughout Dakar, the capital. Confirming their release late on Thursday, state broadcaster RTS announced the freedom of Sonko and his close associate, Bassirou Diomaye Faye.

This development follows a period of upheaval initiated by President Macky Sall’s decision to postpone the presidential election originally scheduled for February 25. Expectations soared following the recent enactment of an amnesty law encompassing offenses tied to political protests since 2021. The election, initially deferred for ten months, is now slated for March 24.

Upon hearing of Sonko’s release, thousands of supporters thronged Dakar’s streets, chanting his name and lighting flares in celebration. Among them, 52-year-old health worker Fatima, elated by the news, exclaimed, “We’ve been waiting for this day for so long. Prayed for it. I believe Sonko can change the country.”

Sonko’s popularity among the youth and his fervent campaign against corruption resonates deeply in a nation grappling with soaring living costs and widespread hardship. Thirty-one-year-old Mamadou Mballo Mane expressed overwhelming joy, stating, “It’s a joy. It’s incredible. They released Ousmane Sonko!”

Following his disqualification from the presidential race, Sonko endorsed Faye as his successor on the ballot. However, Faye, imprisoned since April 2023, has been unable to engage with voters in person since campaigning began on March 9.

Incumbent Macky Sall, abstaining from reelection this year, incited unrest by postponing the February presidential vote, resulting in fatalities. Recurring unrest since 2021 has claimed numerous lives and led to hundreds of arrests in a nation historically viewed as a bastion of stability in West Africa, despite recurring coups and coup attempts.

Sonko has consistently alleged a conspiracy to exclude him from the 2024 election, while his camp and the government have exchanged accusations regarding the violence. He had been detained since late July on multiple charges, including inciting insurrection, colluding with terrorist factions, and jeopardizing state security, with his political party subsequently disbanded.

About Geraldine Boechat 2707 Articles
Senior Editor for Medafrica Times and former journalist for Swiss National Television. former NGO team leader in Burundi and Somalia