Thousands of Senegal opposition supporters begin 3-day protest

 About 5,000 support­ers of Senegalese oppo­sition leader, Ousmane Sonko, gathered in the capital, Dakar, on Tuesday for a three-day protest to show support for the aspiring presidential candidate, who faces a libel case set to resume this week.

The protests are expected to continue on Wednesday across the nation, but return to Dakar on Thursday.

The demonstrations are the latest expression of growing tensions in Senegal in the run-up to a 2024 election that could see President Macky Sall vie for a controversial third term, which the opposition says is unconstitutional.

President Sall, 61, has neither confirmed nor denied that he plans to run, amid widespread speculation. The poll would pit him against Sonko, who came third in the 2019 presidential elections and has since gained support, particularly among disillusioned urban youth.

Hundreds of Sonko support­ers milled around an empty field in Dakar’s Yoff neighbourhood on Tuesday waiting for the demonstration to kick off. Some waved Senegalese flags and pho­tos of Sonko.

There was a heavy security presence, including dozens of anti-riot vehicles. Police are quick to crack down on protests in Senegal. The last pro-Sonko protests, which broke out after he left court last month, were dispersed with tear gas.

“We are sick of this repres­sion, no one can protest in Senegal. Macky (Sall) cannot be a candidate,” said Codou, a protester who travelled from the nearby city of Thies.

President Sall’s opponents ac­cuse him of seeking to weaken the competition with false accu­sations and political trials before the election. The government denies this.

Sonko, 48, is due in court on Thursday to resume hearings for a trial on libel charges for allegedly accusing the minister of tourism of embezzlement.

He is also facing trial on charges of rape and making death threats to a beauty salon employee in 2021. Sonko denies wrongdoing. —Aljazeera

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