Senegal: Opposition Leader to Run for President Despite Rape Trial

In a press conference on Thursday, Senegalese opposition leader Ousmane Sonko stated that he will run for president next year despite facing rape charges. He added that he cannot envision that any judge would sentence him to the five years in jail he potentially faces.

Senegal: Opposition Leader to Run for President Despite Rape Trial
Image credit: Reuters

Facts

  • In a press conference on Thursday, Senegalese opposition leader Ousmane Sonko stated that he will run for president next year despite facing rape charges. He added that he cannot envision that any judge would sentence him to the five years in jail he potentially faces.
  • This comes after lawyers for both Sonko and his accuser revealed on Wednesday that a judge ordered him to face a criminal court trial for the alleged rape and death threats against an employee of a beauty salon he reportedly went to for a massage.
  • This trial could potentially threaten his plans to run for president in 2024 and stoke political tensions in the country, with skirmishes having already broken out in March 2021 after Sonko was first summoned and arrested.
  • Sonko and his supporters claim the charges are politically motivated to remove him from the presidential race. He enjoys widespread support among Senegalese youth, who are frustrated with the current Pres. Macky Sall's government.
  • After placing third in the 2019 presidential elections, Sonko is likely to force a runoff election in 2024 — if he's eligible to run — due to the growth of his political base. He is a former civil servant who's seen as an anti-establishment politician.
  • Pres. Sall, who has yet to say whether he will run for a third term, has suggested that this matter is for courts to handle. However, his rivals have been the subject of criminal charges in the past, including two that were eliminated from the past presidential race.

Sources: Channelstv, Africa News, Reuters, Al Jazeera, and The Conversation.

Narratives

  • Narrative A, as provided by DW. Ousmane Sonko is the victim of a politically-motivated conspiracy planned by the Sall government, which has the clear intent to eliminate him from the 2024 presidential elections. Senegal's justice system is not independent and is once again working to bar those that would work against the establishment in a healthy manner.
  • Narrative B, as provided by RFI. Sonko's position as a rival to Pres. Sall has nothing to do with the charges against him. The charges against him — including his brazen threats of retaliation against the victim — must be deeply investigated. The judiciary must work thoroughly to hold him accountable for his wrongdoing and not let politics sway the decision.