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Opponents form coalition in Senegal against Macky Sall's of third term

Outgoing chairperson of the African Union and Senegal President Macky Sall (C) arrives on the second day of the 36th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union (AU)   -  
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More than 100 political and civil society groups in Senegal on Sunday formed a coalition to oppose a third term for President Macky Sall.

Ten months ahead of presidential elections, the coalition in a declaration called on Sall to respect the constitution and refrain from running for an "illegal and illegitimate" third term.

The president -- in power since 2012 -- has not clarified his intentions but rejects claims it would be unconstitutional for him to run again.

Mamadou Mbodj, F24 Movement of Vital Forces' coordinator, is mobilising members in the month May:

"F24 intends to stand up to the regime in place to fiercely oppose this attempt to confiscate the law. As a first action, F24 invites the Senegalese to mobilise on May 12, 2023 for a large mobilisation against the unconstitutional third candidacy of Mr. Macky Sall."

His main political opponent, Ousmane Sonko, was among several opposition leaders to attend the launch of the coalition.

More than 120 parties on Sunday signed the charter of the F24 Movement of Vital Forces, according to its instigators.

It also calls for the release of "political detainees" arrested during demonstrations over a defamation case against Sonko brought by Tourism Minister Mame Mbaye Niang, a member of Sall's party.

Tensions have been running high through the country for weeks, with protests bringing the capital Dakar to a virtual standstill.

Sonko was handed a two-month suspended sentence in the court case at the end of March after a trial his lawyers said would not rule him out of the 2024 presidential election.

An appeal was lodged against the ruling and Sonko is due to be judged on appeal on Monday.

Sonko's fate is also wrapped up in another case in which he is accused of rape, which he contests.

He and his supporters accuse the government of using the justice system to try to prevent him from running in next year's ballot.

The presidential party accuses Sonko of seeking to paralyse the country and of drumming up anger on the streets in a bid to escape justice.

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