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Jubilation in Dakar as Ousmane Sonko Regains Freedom After Months in Detention 

Thousands of supporters flooded the streets outside Senegal opposition leader Sonko’s house after his release from prison.

Senegal’s top opposition leader, Ousmane Sonko, has been released from prison, sparking jubilant celebrations across Dakar, the capital, and beyond. 

Sonko’s release, along with his key ally Bassirou Diomaye Faye, late on Thursday, marks a pivotal moment in the country’s political landscape, following a prolonged standoff with the state and a crisis triggered by President Macky Sall’s decision to postpone the February 25 presidential vote.

The release of Sonko and Faye was anticipated following the passage of an amnesty law last week, which granted amnesty for acts committed in connection with political demonstrations since 2021. 

The presidential election, initially scheduled to be postponed for 10 months, is now set to take place on March 24.

Sonko, who has been a central figure in Senegalese politics, was imprisoned since July amid a legal battle and rising economic and social tensions that led to deadly unrest between 2021 and 2023. 

Despite being barred from running as a candidate in this year’s election, Sonko remains immensely popular, particularly among young people, for his outspoken stance against corruption and his commitment to addressing the country’s socio-economic challenges.

News of Sonko’s release ignited spontaneous celebrations in Dakar, with thousands of supporters flooding the streets outside his house, chanting his name and expressing hope for change. The opposition leader’s fiery campaign resonated with many Senegalese who are grappling with the rising cost of living and widespread economic hardship.

Following his disqualification from the presidential race, Sonko endorsed Faye as his replacement on the ballot. Faye, who had been imprisoned since April 2023, has been unable to address voters in person since campaigning began on March 9.

The release of Sonko and Faye comes on the heels of heightened political tensions in Senegal, exacerbated by President Sall’s decision to defer the February presidential vote, which led to deadly unrest and widespread discontent. 

The country, often seen as a pillar of stability in West Africa, has experienced bouts of violence and political turmoil in recent years.

Sonko’s camp has accused the government of orchestrating a plot to keep him out of the 2024 election, while both sides have traded blame for the violence that has erupted. 

Despite the challenges ahead, Sonko’s release has injected new energy into Senegal’s political landscape, setting the stage for a fiercely contested presidential election in the coming weeks.

Chioma Kalu

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