Breaking the Quiet

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Senegalese police and protesters clashed in the capital Thursday ahead of a court case involving a prominent opposition leader, a trial whose supporters say is aimed at preventing the politician from running in next year’s presidential elections, Al Jazeera reported.

The skirmishes came as authorities escorted opposition leader Ousmane Sonko to court for the resumption of a case against him by Senegal’s tourism minister for alleged defamation and public insults.

Sonko has also been charged with raping a beauty salon employee in 2021 and threatening her life. He denies the charges and has called the accusations politically motivated.

Tensions flared over the case before Sonko’s court appearance this week, with more than 10,000 protesting in Dakar on Tuesday in support of the opposition figure.

Thursday’s clashes are the latest round of unrest in Senegal ahead of the February 2024 presidential vote. The country has been generally viewed as a bastion of stability and democracy in West Africa, a region that has seen a number of coups and ongoing insurgencies in recent years.

Many Senegalese have expressed anger at the government of President Macky Sall, who has been accused of imprisoning opponents.

Sall has also caused a stir in the West African nation because he has not ruled out running for a third term. Senegal’s constitution only allows two terms but some fear that Sall will use a recent constitutional tweak to reset his mandate.

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