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Senegalese Opposition Leader files to run for the presidency from jail

Many back and forth court battles, both within the Senegalese legal system and with ECOWAS High Courts, and many months of uncertainty, jailed Senegalese opposition leader Ousmane Sonko has officially filed his candidacy in Senegal’s upcoming Presidential election.

This historic filing comes after the court of first instance’s decision to overturn a ruling made by the Senegalese Supreme Court which initially barred Sonko from running in the February election.

This filing also occurred despite the national entity which oversees elections in Senegal refusing to provide Sonko and his team with the documents needed to file, to which Sonko’s team filed anyways, with one of his lawyers, Said Larifou, quoted with saying that “We are certain that his candidacy will be accepted and validated; The constitutional council is a judicial organ and not political”. Sonko’s back-up, and a former official of his now-dissolved political party, PASTEF, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, has also filed to run.

Sonko’s journey to even having the opportunity to file for the Presidential Elections was marred with countless challenges and roadblocks, consisting of false rape allegations, dubious convictions, violent protests, a shutdown of his political party, and consistent court battles just to ensure that he may even run. One of these court battles eventually condemned him to a two year prison sentence over dubious charges of calling for insurrection, conspiracy with terrorist groups, and endangering state security.

Due to these charges, Sonko has been in jail since the end of July 2023, and there exists a possibility that he will run his presidential campaign from his jail cell in Dakar. Following his imprisonment, Senegalese authorities formally dissolved his political party, PASTEF, but the party continues to function unofficially, and has sponsored the aforementioned Bassirou Diomaye Faye as a backup for Sonko, if he proves unable to run for February's presidential election. In order to run in the presidential elections, Sonko must submit his candidacy by December 26th, and show that he has collected enough signatures to confirm his candidacy.

Sonko last challenged for the presidential office in 2019 on a platform of replacing the national currency of Senegal, the Franc, with a domestic African currency to cull economic dependence on France. In this attempt at the presidency, Sonko came in third place with 16% of the total vote. He now seeks to dislodge incumbent Macky Sall, who has been in power since 2012.

In the face of formidable legal obstacles, Senegalese opposition leader Ousmane Sonko has officially filed his candidacy for the upcoming Presidential election, defying odds and a two-year prison sentence. The culmination of persistent court battles and challenges saw Sonko overcoming a Supreme Court ruling barring his candidacy, highlighting a determined effort to secure his place in the February election.

Sonko's tenacity is evident as he pursued candidacy despite the election oversight body's refusal to provide necessary documents, expressing confidence in the judiciary's impartiality. The unfolding political drama also involves a contingency plan, with former party official Bassirou Diomaye Faye filing as a backup candidate, underscoring the significance of Sonko's bid to dislodge incumbent Macky Sall after an earlier presidential attempt in 2019.


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