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President Sall plays opposition roulette

The opposition leader is detained, facing fresh charges  but new laws allow an opposition mayor to run for president

The battle between President Macky Sall, who stated in early July that he would not seek a third term, and opposition leader Ousmane Sonko is intensifying with the banning of the main opposition party on 2 August.

And Sonko was arrested again by the country's public prosecutor, Abdou Karim Diop, with plotting an insurrection and other new offences (AC Vol 64 No 14, No last stand).

The Senegalese authorities also imposed a temporary ban on the TikTok social media app which has become a critical tool for political mobilisation in the country.

Sonko, who has been in detention at home since his June conviction for 'moral corruption' of 20-year-old masseuse Adji Sarr, has responded by promising to go on hunger strike (AC Vol 64 No 12, Street hits back for Sonko).

Meanwhile, his lawyers say they have filed a criminal complaint against Sall in France for 'crimes against humanity' and have requested an investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, naming dozens of ministers and police officials including Interior Minister Antoine Félix Abdoulaye Diome and police chief General Moussa Fall.

One of Sonko's legal team, French national Juan Branco, is himself subject to an international arrest warrant issued in July by the Senegalese government. That was lifted on 7 August.

Sonko's conviction and two-year jail sentence, which effectively prohibits him from standing in next year's presidential elections, prompted a wave of violent protests that left 23 people dead following clashes with security services.

'In the face of so much hate, lies, oppression, persecution, I have decided to resist,' Sonko has stated.

President Sall seems determined to prevent Sonko from standing but that is not helping his political allies. Instead it is hardening support for opposition forces.

It could increase the chances of Khalifa Sall, former Dakar mayor, and Karim Wade, son of former president Abdoulaye Wade, who stand to pick up Sonko's support.

On 5 August, Senegal's parliament amended the law blocking people who have been jailed from standing for political office. Now both Karim Wade and Khalifa Sall, no relation to President Macky Sall, are both free to run for the presidency although they have both been convicted for corruption and then pardoned.

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