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Senegal’s supreme court dealt a major blow to embattled opposition leader Ousmane Sonko by effectively barring him from running for president in next year’s elections, the Associated Press reported.
The high court nullified a decision by a lower court in the city of Ziguinchor – where Sonko serves as mayor – which favored restoring him to the voter rolls.
Sonko, a prominent figure and former presidential candidate who took third place in the country’s last presidential election, has been entangled in a series of legal and political challenges.
He was previously accused of rape and death threats against a woman working at a massage parlor. While a court acquitted him of these charges in June, he was convicted of corrupting youth and handed a two-year prison sentence. This conviction triggered protests across the country.
Meanwhile, Senegalese authorities have refused to provide him with the necessary sponsorship papers required for the official registration of his candidacy. In late July, they dissolved Sonko’s political party and arrested him on a series of charges, including calling for insurrection and conspiracy against the state.
Sonko’s supporters countered that the charges and subsequent prosecution are politically motivated and aimed at derailing his candidacy in the February 2024 election.
The political landscape in Senegal has been tense, with Sonko previously seen as a primary challenger to President Macky Sall’s ruling party. Sall opted not to seek a third term in response to widespread protests launched by Sonko’s supporters.
The recent legal setback coincides with a West African regional court’s dismissal of Sonko’s case seeking his reinstatement, further complicating his political future.
The opposition leader had appealed to the Court of Justice of the regional bloc, the Economic Community of West African States, to contest the dissolution of his party and the striking of his voter registration.
However, this court ruled on the same day that none of Sonko’s rights had been violated and dismissed his claims.