Jailed Senegalese opposition leader Sonko resumes hunger strike

OCT 18, 2023 LISTEN

Senegalese opposition leader Ousmane Sonko says he has resumed the hunger strike he ended last month ahead of next year's elections. Sonko has been detained since the end of July on various charges including calling for insurrection.

The 49-year-old has accused President Macky Sall of seeking to exclude him from running in the 2024 presidential elections. Sonko came third in elections in 2019.

He was jailed in July on charges including fomenting insurrection, criminal association in connection with a terrorist enterprise and undermining state security over incidents dating back to 2021.

Sonko had been engaged in a fierce tussle with the state for more than two years and says authorities are trying to torpedo his political career.

He said he resumed the hunger strike on Tuesday to show "solidarity" with other activists "unjustly arrested for expressing their political opinions", and who are sometimes deprived of "all contact with their loved ones".

"We can only resort to the means of resistance that our current situation allows. That's why I've decided to resume my hunger strike," he said on Facebook and X.

​​​Reinstated to electroral roll

Sonko is the mayor of Ziguinchor, the capital of the Casamance region in the south of the country.

Last week a judge ordered that he be reinstated on electoral lists for the February polls after authorities had removed him.

Sonko was found guilty on 1 June of morally corrupting a young woman and sentenced in absentia to two years in prison.

It sparked clashes that left 16 dead, according to the government, or as many as 30, according to his party.

State lawyers have said they will contest the decision by the judge from a district court in the southern city of Ziguinchor to reinstate the opposition figure.

Despite his judiciary troubles, Sonko has remained the leader of the Pastef party and the country's most popular opponent to President Sall.

(with AFP)