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Senegalese citizens staged a widespread demonstration against Macky Sall‘s administration, which kidnapped opposition leader Ousman Sonko on his way to a court hearing two days ago .

Sonko, is a 46-year-old leader of the opposition Pastef party and a former presidential candidate who finished third in the 2019 elections. His political career was cast into doubt last month when an employee at a spa where he claimed to have gone for back massages filed rape charges against him.

Sonko’s recent arrest has triggered “the worst unrest seen in the capital of Senegal in years”. Leader of the Pastef Les Patriotes party and a former presidential candidate, Sonko is seen as a formidable opposition figure to current President Macky Sall especially with elections in three years’ time. France24 reports that there is continued uncertainty as to whether President Sall will seek a third term in office.

According to him, the accusation of rape is an “attempt at political liquidation,” as he accused President Macky Sall of fomenting a political conspiracy against him. Despite the fact that the young woman accusing Ousmane Sonko of rape testified in a closed court hearing last month, her case is yet to be resolved.

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“Ousmane Sonko was heading towards the court following a summons from the judicial authority when he was arbitrarily arrested due to the presence on his route of demonstrators and sympathizers. The charges of disturbing public order and unauthorized demonstration against him must be dropped and, as long as these are the only charges justifying his detention, he must be immediately released, along with the three individuals who were arrested in same time as him, ”said Samira Daoud, Amnesty International’s regional director for West and Central Africa.

Senegal is one of the very few stable African democracies and the country has never experienced a coup. But the ongoing protests, vocally supported by opposition political parties as well as some in civil society, are the worst in years. As of Saturday, March 6, reports say some five people have been killed with many protesters and police injured. What started as a call for the release of Sonko is now about socioeconomics, as clearly seen on placards and posters. Unemployment is high in Senegal while the strains brought about by COVID-19 have devastated the informal sector.