Ousmane Sonko, the leading opposition figure in Senegal, has been accused of inciting an insurrection and other new criminal charges, as disclosed by the country’s chief prosecutor.
The allegations were made public on Saturday, July 29th, a few weeks after Sonko, 49, was found guilty of an unrelated immorality charge and sentenced to a two-year prison term. The conviction had led to deadly riots all across the country.
Sonko, who has been serving his sentence at home, was taken into custody for interrogation at a police court in Dakar, the Senegalese capital, on Friday, July 28th.
The prosecutor, Abdou Karim Diop, informed journalists that the new allegations arose from Sonko’s speeches, rallies, and other incidents since 2021, including a recent event at his residence before his Friday arrest.
The charges range from disturbing state and public security, fostering serious political unrest, and collaborating with a terrorist entity, to theft.
Diop said, “This arrest has nothing to do with the [moral corruption] proceedings, for which he was tried in absentia.”
Sonko was in a confrontation with security forces outside his home last Friday. He accused them of unauthorized filming. He grabbed the mobile phone of a female police officer positioned outside his residence.
Sonko was cleared in June of accusations of sexually assaulting and threatening a female employee at a massage parlor. He was, however, convicted on a lesser charge of corrupting minors, a crime in Senegal that carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment and a fine of more than $6,000.
This conviction sparked nationwide violent confrontations between Sonko’s supporters and the police, causing at least 16 deaths and numerous injuries.
Sonko, who came third in the 2019 presidential election and enjoys significant youth support, has accused President Macky Sall of acting like a dictator.
His followers assert that the allegations against Sonko are part of a governmental plot to disrupt his 2024 presidential bid. Supporters of Sall, however, accuse Sonko of creating unrest.
President Sall mitigated the escalating tensions in the nation in early July by declaring that he would not run for a controversial third term after months of uncertainty and speculation about his plans.