Senegalese Opposition leader Ousmane Sonko was arrested on Wednesday March 3, 2021 on his way to court where he was scheduled to appear for rape allegations.
Sonko, who was followed by his supporters, is accused of disturbing public order and participating in an unauthorized demonstration.
On his way to court Ousmane Sonko tweeted:
“My car has been blocked for over an hour by the police headed by the prefect of Dakar.
The prefect was heard saying that he would issue a warrant to arrest me by force.
No one has the right to choose a route for me.
The incident was confirmed by a bailiff.
I am a free citizen.
I call the international community as a witness to these serious violations of our rights.”
Sonko held a press conference the day before, saying the accusations were false and voiced concerns about the impartiality of the Senegalese judicial system. The opposition leader believes this is a plot by incumbent president Macky Sall to ruin his reputation and get him a criminal record, so he won’t be eligible to run in 2024.
President Macky Sall, who declined to address the national press about the rape accusations against Sonko, said during an interview with French public media RFI, that he had nothing to do with it and had “enough things to do than plot such low things.”
Ousmane Sonko, who was stripped from his parliamentarian immunity last week, is not the first opposition leader arrested during President Macky Sall’s tenure. Karim Wade, the son of former president Abdoulaye Wade, and Khalifa Sall were both arrested and charged with corruption.
On April 20, 2015, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention qualified the detention of Karim Wade as arbitrary. The group, “requested the Government of Senegal to take the necessary steps to remedy the situation and bring it in line with international human rights standards.” Karim Wade, who was arrested on April 18, 2013, was released on June 24, 2016 thanks to a presidential pardon.
Khalifa Sall was elected mayor in 2009 and won another term in 2014. In 2017, Sall was elected member of the National Assembly. He was arrested in March 2017, two years before the presidential elections and released in 2019 after President Macky Sall who issued a pardon on September 29, 2019 was reelected for a second term.