As Ousmane Sonko was on his way to court to face a defamation charge, violence erupted between protesters and law enforcement. Every time Sonko comes out, the atmosphere is electric.
It is, in theory, the penultimate act of the trial for defamation in which Ousmane Sonko is attacked by the Minister of Tourism, Mame Mbaye Niang. The opponent's lawyers obtained the dismissal of the trial for the third and last time. The fault, according to the collective of lawyers of Sonko, to the conditions reserved for the mayor of Ziguinchor. Three of the defendant's new lawyers tried to meet their client, but this was not possible after the opponent was blocked at his home.
#Senegal – Reaction March 15, 2023
We have received various alerts from Pasteef leaders about movement restrictions on Ousmane Sonko and his family.
Restrictions not resulting from judicial decisions are illegal and must end immediately
- Amnesty Senegal (@AmnestySenegal) March 15, 2023
But if the postponement was accepted, it is also because of the response of the security forces to the movements that were taking place outside: while they were on their way to the court, Ousmane Sonko and one of his lawyers allegedly breathed tear gas. A doctor established that the opponent could not normally attend his trial and issued a medical certificate.
For the Minister of Tourism, Ousmane Sonko stages this trial and does everything to aggravate the situation and to save time: Sonko is "dilatory" and "theater", accuses the minister. The mayor of Ziguinchor, for his part, still sees it as "a plot" by the Senegalese president, "a strictly political affair, instrumentalized by the power of Macky Sall for the exclusive purpose of dismissing a candidate who, by far, seems to be one of the best placed to win the next presidential election.
So thathe is also at the heart of a case accusing him of rape, Ousmane Sonko cannot deny staging his successive trials. "It's the only way to save yourself," sums up an observer of local political life. If he does not want to fall into oblivion and be struck ineligibility at the last moment, he must anticipate, cry conspiracy and harangue the crowds whenever he can”. Consequence: while he was not obliged to go to court, Sonko refused the route of the security forces and chose himself how to get to the courthouse.
Political survival strategy
A strategy that, however, risks provoking violence. Sonko knows it, he had already experienced it by staging one of his journeys to the court, broadcast live on social networks. While Senegalese youth had regained their calm after the 2021 protests, the clashes resumed yesterday. Tear gas, stone throwing, burnt buses…. Between the police and supporters of Sonko, the atmosphere was electric.
Electric… and political! Because this is undoubtedly the importance of Sonko's strategy: from a simple case of defamation, it has become a case that is also highly political. The images of Sonko "brutalized" by the police after his refusal to take the planned route are all to the advantage of the opponent, whose supporters were shouting political slogans.
After the announcement of the postponement of the trial, the tension fell. But we know it: during the next outing of Ousmane Sonko, new clashes could take place. A way to put pressure on the power in place and to show that in the event of an attempt to prevent Sonko from appearing, the consequences could be terrible.