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February 26, 2024

Sonko’s Presidential Hopes Dashed After Court Rejects Appeal

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Jan 6, 2024

Senegal’s Supreme Court on January 5th rejected opposition leader Ousmane Sonko’s appeal of his libel conviction, dealing a major blow to his hopes of running in the February 25 presidential election.

Supreme Court Upholds Lower Court’s Guilty Verdict

The Supreme Court upheld last year’s verdict by a lower court which found Sonko guilty of libel against Tourism Minister Mame Mbaye Niang. Sonko was fined $3,000 and given a 6-month suspended sentence.

The case goes back to February 2021 when Sonko accused Niang of misappropriating public funds earmarked for fighting COVID-19. Sonko made the claims during a press conference and repeated them on social media. Niang sued Sonko for libel over the accusations.

Senegal’s laws prohibit candidates with criminal records from running for president. By upholding Sonko’s libel conviction, the Supreme Court has effectively blocked Sonko from entering the presidential race.

Constitutional Council Rejects Candidacy Application

In addition to the Supreme Court’s ruling, Senegal’s Constitutional Council has separately rejected Sonko’s application to be a candidate in the upcoming election.

The Council said Sonko’s filing was incomplete and invalid because it did not include documentation required under Senegalese law. Sonko’s lawyer decried the decision as “unjust” and said he will file an appeal.

Requirements for Presidential Candidacy Application
1. Birth certificate showing Senegalese nationality
2. Certificate showing candidate has voted in the last election
3. Sworn statement that candidate has never been convicted of a crime
4. List of supporting signatures from voters

Without overturning either judgment against him, Sonko has no path forward to challenge incumbent President Macky Sall on February 25th.

Public Reacts to News of Court Rulings

Residents of Dakar had mixed reactions upon hearing that Sonko’s presidential bid was essentially blocked. Supporters of the opposition leader called the decisions a “miscarriage of justice” and said Sonko is being unfairly targeted by the judicial system.

Critics argue that Sonko has himself to blame since he continually attacks and accuses members of the current administration of corruption, opening himself to potential libel lawsuits. They say Sonko should work within legal means to voice grievances rather than making unproven claims.

Some analysts say that by restricting Sonko’s candidacy, the courts may have made a “crisis out of judicial tedium.” With Sonko ineligible, the election is unlikely to see much voter enthusiasm or turnout. President Sall had already been expected to easily win re-election after ruling Senegal since 2012.

What’s Next for Sonko and Senegalese Politics?

Sonko’s lawyer has pledged to keep fighting the libel conviction and said his legal team will submit the required documents to validate his candidacy. However, with both the Supreme Court and Constitutional Council coming down against Sonko, analysts say his odds of getting on the ballot are vanishingly small.

The developments are a huge setback for the 47-year-old Sonko, who was positioning himself to be Sall’s main challenger. Sonko has a strong base of support amongst Senegalese youth fed up with unemployment and poverty. Some experts warn the courts may have unintentionally created a martyr figure that could inspire future unrest.

In the near-term though, today’s rulings cement President Sall’s status as the prohibitive favorite for re-election. Barring a successful appeal by Sonko, Sall looks set to secure a controversial third term in office amidst an opposition severely weakened by legal attacks.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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