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Senegal Court Orders Opposition Leader’s Reinstatement on Electoral Register

Sonko contends that he is a victim of a concerted effort to obstruct his presidential candidacy.

A court in Senegal has ruled in favour of jailed opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, ordering his reinstatement on the electoral register. This decision opens the door for Sonko to participate in the upcoming presidential election scheduled for February.

Ousmane Sonko, a prominent opposition figure, has been entangled in a series of legal battles, consistently maintaining his innocence. While he was acquitted of rape charges in June, he was found guilty of “corrupting the youth” and subsequently removed from the electoral roll. Sonko contends that he is a victim of a concerted effort to obstruct his presidential candidacy.

The court’s ruling, greeted with jubilation by Sonko’s supporters in the courtroom, mandates his inclusion in the voters’ roll, a prerequisite for any candidate seeking to run for office. However, the government has expressed its intention to appeal the decision, setting the stage for continued legal and political tensions.

Sonko, who has been in custody since late July, faces charges of insurrection, and his political party, Pastef, was dissolved by the authorities. Despite these challenges, the court’s decision provides Sonko with an opportunity to register his candidacy for the presidential election before the deadline on December 26.

The 49-year-old opposition leader’s legal troubles began earlier this year when he was convicted of sexually assaulting and threatening a massage therapist in 2021. Sonko vehemently denied the accusations, emphasising that they were part of a broader campaign to undermine his political aspirations. The court’s decision to reinstate him on the electoral register signals a potential shift in the legal landscape surrounding his case.

Ousmane Sonko’s political rise has been meteoric, especially among Senegal’s significant population of unemployed youth. Dismissed as a tax inspector in 2016, he quickly ascended to parliamentary office and assumed the role of mayor in the southern city of Ziguinchor. In the 2019 presidential elections, Sonko secured a third-place finish, solidifying his standing as a formidable political force.

Meanwhile, President Macky Sall has announced that he will not seek re-election, dispelling speculations of a potential unconstitutional third term. Sonko’s reinstatement on the electoral register sets the stage for a dynamic and closely watched presidential race in Senegal, with implications for the country’s political future and stability.

Kiki Garba

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