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Senegal: Ousmane Sonko to resume hunger strike

Ousmane Sonko making a press statement at the HLM basic school in Ziguinchor, 3 July 2022   -  
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Senegalese opponent Ousmane Sonko, detained since the end of July on various charges including calling for insurrection, announced on Tuesday that he was resuming his hunger strike which he had stopped at the beginning of September.

Candidate for the February 2024 presidential election, Mr. Sonko, 49, third in the 2019 presidential election, accuses President Macky Sall, who denies it, of wanting to exclude him from the ballot through legal procedures. Mr. Sall, elected in 2012 for seven years and re-elected in 2019 for five years, announced in early July that he would not run again.

“We can only resort to the means of resistance that our current situation allows. This is why I have decided to resume my hunger strike,” declared the opponent on his Facebook page and X (ex-Twitter).

The politician wants this decision to mark his "solidarity" with other activists "unjustly arrested for having expressed their political opinions", detained, and today deprived, for some, "of any contact with their loved ones" for having led a hunger strike.

He also wishes to “protest against (his) arbitrary and electoral detention, and that of hundreds of patriots, and demand an end to it,” he wrote in his message. His resumption of hunger strike was confirmed by Me Clédor Ly, one of his lawyers.

On Friday, a magistrate from a district court in Ziguinchor (south) ordered that Mr. Sonko be reinstated on the electoral lists from which he was removed, opening a new page in the judicial saga which pits him against the State and has kept Senegal in suspense for two and a half years.

This recovery would a priori allow Mr. Sonko, imprisoned since the end of July after months of showdown with the government and the justice system, to hope to compete in the presidential election. But his candidacy is still far from guaranteed.

After a conviction for defamation against a minister, Mr. Sonko was found guilty on June 1 of evil of a minor and sentenced to two years in prison. Having refused to appear at trial, he was convicted in absentia and removed from the list.

At the end of July, he was imprisoned on other charges, including calling for insurrection, criminal association in connection with a terrorist enterprise and endangering state security.

He had started a hunger strike which, according to those close to him, he ended on September 2 to respond to calls emanating in particular from very influential religious leaders in Senegal, after being admitted to the intensive care unit in a hospital.

The Senegalese authorities had cast doubt on this hunger strike.

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