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Senegal opposition leader claims detained “illegally”, want protest

Ousmane Sonko, the head of the opposition in Senegal, claimed on Tuesday that security personnel were holding him "illegally" and urged Senegalese to protest.

He escalated a political standoff with the administration of President Macky Sall by posting on social media, “I urge all Senegalese people to come out onto the streets.”

Sonko, a government critic who finished third in the 2019 presidential election, was taken without his will to the capital Dakar by the police and was afterwards deemed “unreachable” by his party.

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In anticipation of the conclusion of a rape trial that could disqualify him from running in next year’s presidential election, he had left on Friday for Dakar in a convoy.

He does not admit to the allegations made against him, but he did not show up for the case’s first two sessions due to what he claimed were concerns for his safety.

Violence-related worries have been sparked by the upcoming verdict on Thursday.

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Although Senegal has always been a beacon of calm in unrest-ridden West Africa, the country has recently been battered by unrest that has occasionally turned deadly.

Sonko, the 48-year-old head of the PASTEF-Patriots party, is well-liked by Senegal’s sizable youth population.

At least 12 people were killed in hostilities that lasted for many days before his capture in 2021.

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A man was killed in conflicts with police authorities during his 500-kilometer (300-mile) “caravan of freedom” over the weekend, which drew large throngs of followers.

For the first two days, he posted live updates about the adventure on social media.

In the wee hours of Tuesday, he reappeared on social media to complain about being “illegally held.”

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He wrote on Facebook, “How can a nation that calls itself a democracy justify imprisoning without cause a citizen whose only crime was to be a fierce and unyielding critic of Macky Sall’s regime?”

“Power should remain with the people, so everyone should rise up together.”

He urged the creation of a “national resistance movement” to protect freedom and democracy.

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