In Senegal, the main opponent, Ousmane Sonko, marches towards Dakar to challenge President Macky Sall

Opposition leader Ousmane Sonko greets his supporters during a rally in Ziguinchor on May 24, 2023.

He promised it, he did it. After having spent several weeks entrenched in Ziguinchor, in the south of Senegal, the opponent Ousmane Sonko left his stronghold, Friday May 26 in the middle of the afternoon, at the head of a “people’s convoy”, as he calls it. Its objective being the presidential palace, in Dakar, located some five hundred kilometers away.

During these first twenty-four hours, the president’s main rival, Macky Sall, with a view to the presidential election of February 2024, managed to mobilize impressive crowds. Every commune, every village he crossed seemed to cheer him on, thousands of supporters crowded the sides of the roads to greet the passage of his car, draped for the occasion in a Senegalese flag.

This high-risk trip was marked by violence from the first hours. At the end of the day on Friday, violence broke out between militants and the police in Kolda (in the south), while the convoy was for a time blocked by a police roadblock. The leader of the party The Patriots of Senegal for work, ethics and fraternity (Pastef / Les Patriotes) is expected at the end of the afternoon in Tambacounda, the largest city in eastern Senegal.

Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers Senegal: Adji Sarr maintains before the judges his accusations of rape against Ousmane Sonko, opponent and presidential candidate

Ousmane Sonko promised a “final fight” to President Macky Sall on Thursday, the day after the major hearing of the trial in which he is accused of repeated rapes by Adji Sarr, a former massage parlor employee. As he denounces a “political conspiracy”he invited all Senegalese, especially the young people who constitute his base, to “taking their destiny into their own hands” by joining this “caravan of freedom”. “Gatsa-gatsa” (an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth), he reiterated, making this expression in Wolof his slogan. He has not said when he will reach Dakar, but he wants to arrive in the capital before the verdict of his trial is pronounced on 1er June.

“That he wants to walk on Dakar, it’s not a problem (…), if he respects the laws and regulations. We will not let anyone disturb the public order and the tranquility of the Senegalese”, said government spokesman Abdou Karim Fofana on the eve of the march on Thursday. He took the opportunity to emphasize that the government would respond with firmness to any attempt to disturb public order.

The risk of ineligibility for the presidential election

In recent months, tension has been growing in Senegal, fueled by the persistent vagueness around a possible third term for President Macky Sall. Approaching 1er June, the people of Dakar hold their breath, worried about new clashes that could occur. In March 2021, his arrest on the way to court in this case of alleged rape sparked violent riots for several days, causing the death of fourteen people and major looting in the country.

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