The air is loaded with tear gas and fumes from burnt tires and cars in the streets of the upscale neighborhood of Cité Keur Gorgui, in Dakar, blocked by the police. Difficult to approach the home of Senegalese opponent Ousmane Sonko, in front of which dozens of supporters expressed their support, Monday February 8, the day of his summons to the national gendarmerie.
Six days earlier, the former 2019 presidential candidate (he came third) was charged with rape and death threats by a 20-year-old woman. Working in a beauty and massage salon, she claims in the complaint that Mr. Sonko, a regular customer, allegedly demanded “Sexual favors” and threatened her with two weapons. “He transformed me into a sexual object and I can no longer live through these repeated rapes”, she says, according to an extract from the complaint broadcast in Senegalese media.
Accusations that are rejected en bloc by the supporters of the deputy and leader of Pastef (Patriots of Senegal for work, ethics and fraternity), denouncing a “Plot”. “Khalifa Sall, Karim Wade… All of Macky Sall’s political opponents have been eliminated. Sonko is the only hope. If he is arrested, Senegal will have no more opposition ”, launches Ibrahima Dia, a young unemployed sympathizer who claims to be there to “Protect Sonko from any arrest”.
These demonstrations turned into clashes with the police. If no official report had been communicated Tuesday morning, significant material damage, arrests and injuries were noted in several districts of Dakar. A police source ensures that “The police were there to disperse an unauthorized gathering, especially in the context of Covid-19, and not to arrest Ousmane Sonko”.
The day before his summons to the gendarmerie, Mr. Sonko told the press that he would not go there. “If the legal route [n’était] not respected ”. “The National Assembly must necessarily be seized in order to lift the parliamentary immunity of Ousmane Sonko, because this prosecution was initiated outside of a flagrante delicto. Without this, prosecutions cannot take place ”, explains his lawyer, Bamba Cissé, who assures that Mr. Sonko will respond to investigators once his immunity is lifted.
“It is, however, impossible that acts of rape could have been committed there, at this time, in the circumstances described by the victim”, assure Me Cisse. Ousmane Sonko talks about “Political machination” to remove him from the political game and the race for the presidential election of 2024, while President Macky Sall has still not made a clear decision on whether or not to run for a third term.
“A vision for young people”
“The opposition has dispersed since Idrissa Seck [arrivé deuxième à l’élection de 2019] joined Macky Sall’s majority by agreeing to be appointed head of the Economic, Social and Environmental Council in early November. Ousmane Sonko has therefore established himself as the main protest figure ”, decrypts Moussa Diaw, teacher-researcher at Gaston-Berger University in Saint-Louis. As for the virulent reaction of Mr. Sonko’s supporters, the analyst explains this by the fact that “His speech is based on the rupture and the socio-economic difficulties of the country: this has captivated many young people who identify with the criticism of the political system and the call for more transparency in the management of resources”.
Near the home of the opponent, Monday, Pope Diam, black scarf soaked in vinegar on his nose to counter the effects of tear gas, cries at the top of his lungs that he is tired. “Sonko, he has a vision for young people that gives us hope. We will be here until tomorrow to continue fighting, it’s a matter of life and death ”, he assures. A fed up with an unemployment rate of 16% in a country of 16 million inhabitants and by the lack of prospects in a context of economic crisis linked to Covid-19.
Mr. Sonko planned to press charges against his accuser for “Undermining the administration of justice by fabrication of evidence, attempted fraud of judgment and criminal association”, says Mr.e Cisse. It should be deposited this Tuesday at the research section of the national gendarmerie. Contacted by The World Africa, the plaintiff’s lawyer, Bassirou Baldé, “Does not wish to communicate on this subject”.