Popular Senegalese opposition leader Ousmane Sonko called on the public to “come out en masse” on the eve of a speech in which President Macky Sall is expected to announce whether he will seek a third term.
“We must come out to confront the Macky Sall regime and say that it is not up to him to choose the candidates that will face each other in the next presidential election,” Sonko said on social media Sunday night.
Sonko was sentenced in early June to two years in prison for “corrupting” a young woman, sparking protests that left at least 16 people dead.
The conviction makes him ineligible to stand in next year’s presidential elections.
Sonko has claimed that the court case was engineered to prevent him from running, a charge authorities deny. He has been blocked in by the authorities at his home — or “illegally held”, according to him — since May 28.
Sall, meanwhile, is expected to announce whether he will seek another mandate at 8:00 pm on Monday after holding the country in suspense over his intentions for months.
Sall was first elected in 2012 and again in 2019, with the constitution stipulating that a president cannot serve more than two terms.
His supporters, however, present him as their candidate for 2024 and argue that a constitutional revision in 2016 reset the counter to zero.
‘Stand up as one’
Sonko said on Sunday that if he was arrested and not released within two hours, “I call on all the Senegalese people to stand up as one and come out en masse and this time put an end to this criminal regime”.
If the president announces his candidacy for a third mandate, he added, “I believe it’s incumbent on all the Senegalese people to stand up, to face him”.
“If we have to put up a fight, it must be definitive… The days and weeks to come will be crucial,” he added.
He went on to urge the public to mobilise to demand the release of political prisoners and bring an end as soon as possible to his “administrative detention”.
Sonko also claimed a recent “national dialogue” initiated by Sall that restored the political trajectories of two other previously sidelined opposition figures was merely a “deal” aimed at further denying him a path to the presidency.
While remaining vague about his intentions, Sall has argued that it would not be unconstitutional for him to run again, and that his decision to do so would be “free and sovereign”.
On Saturday, he attended a gathering of local officeholders who presented him with a petition of support.
“My battle and my greatest pride is truly leading to victory and pursuing our economic policies to the benefit of our population,” Sall said, adding that Senegal’s path to becoming an emerging economy by 2035 had already been “marked out”.