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Senegal protests: Ousmane Sonko charged with rape

Demonstrators squared up to security forces outside the court on Monday

Senegal protests: Ousmane Sonko charged with rape

A judge in Senegal has charged opposition leader Ousmane Sonko with rape and released him on bail, after days of deadly protests sparked by his arrest last week.

“He goes home. he’s free,” said Etienne Ddione, one among his lawyers.

Mr Sonko, 46, is accused of assaulting a lady who worked during a salon .

He says the case is politically motivated to prevent him running again in elections in 2024. He came third within the 2019 poll with 16% of the vote.

Demonstrators scuffled with security forces outside court within the capital, Dakar, before Monday’s hearing.

Police have deployed armoured cars within the city within the wake of several days of clashes during which a minimum of eight people were killed, including an adolescent within the southern town of Diaobé – the foremost serious violence Senegal has seen for several years.

Tear gas was also fired at protesters in central Dakar on Monday, after they pelted officers with stones.

Mr Sonko is popular among young Senegalese, and an opposition collective referred to as the Movement for the Defence of Democracy has involved three days of mass protests, starting on Monday.

Schools within the capital have also been ordered to shut for every week following the unrest
On Sunday a top Senegalese official whose job is to settle conflicts, Alioune Badara Cissé, said the authorities “need to pause and speak with our youth” and warned that “we are on the verge of an apocalypse”.

Why are these protests so serious?
Mr Sonko’s arrest is seen as a “lightning rod for much broader discontent and frustrations,” Francois Rouget of security consultancy Control Risks told the BBC’s Newsday programme.

“These [protests] come at a difficult economic time – there are many frustrations coming from curfews that are imposed to tackle coronavirus, so we are seeing tons of convergences in grievances,” he said.

Much of Mr Sonko’s support comes from the massive group of young Senegalese who feel disillusioned about their prospect of finding work.

A lot of the anger is additionally directed at President Macky Sall, who is being accused of using the judiciary for his political aims.

Two other opposition leaders were excluded from the 2019 election after convictions which they assert were politically motivated. Mr Sonko is currently the country’s only major opposition leader.

Mr Sonko was accused of rape in February. He was arrested on Wednesday as he was on his thanks to court, amid a gaggle of supporters, on charges of disrupting public order when he refused to vary his route.

Who is Ousmane Sonko?
A 46-year-old former tax inspector, he was fired in 2016 after making allegations of tax anomalies against the president’s brother, Aliou Sall.

Mr Sonko had at that time already get entangled in politics, forming his Pastef party in 2014.

His parliamentary immunity was removed last week, after he was accused of rape.

His opponents dismiss him as a demagogue and agitator but he’s fashionable children for his pan-African rhetoric and condemnation of France’s continued economic role in Senegal.

Mr Sonko grew up within the southern town of Bignona, which has seen a number of the worst violence.

Why are French interests being attacked?
France is that the largest trading partner and investor in Senegal, and French companies are accused of stifling local-owned businesses.

French-owned supermarket chain Auchan said on Friday that there had been 14 attacks against 32 of its stores across the country.

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