DAKAR (Reuters) – Senegalese opposition leader Ousmane Sonko has no plans to make peace with President Macky Sall and suggested he may try to disrupt next year’s elections if he is not allowed to run, he said in an interview with France 24 television on Thursday.
“There will be no elections in this country if President Macky Sall wishes to counter my candidacy,” Sonko said from his home in the capital Dakar, where he has been under effective house arrest since he was sentenced to two years in jail in June on charges stemming from an alleged rape.
Sonko denies wrongdoing and says the charges are meant to stop him from running in a presidential election scheduled for February. Reuters has not been able to identify his deadline to file an appeal, but it is expected this month. He has to turn himself into authorities first and it is unclear what he plans to do.
Sonko, popular among the West African country’s disaffected youth, called for protests following the June sentencing. Rioting ensued, in which thousands of protesters torched buildings and vehicles and threw rocks at police, who responded with tear gas and, some say, live rounds. At least sixteen people died.
The unrest was fuelled in part by concerns that Sall would run for a third term in office in the February election. Sall has since said he will not run, blowing open the election race and garnering praise from global leaders, many of whom saw it as a victory for democracy in a region beset by a series of recent coups.
Still, Sonko is unmoved.
“It’s not up to Sall to choose our next president,” he said.
(Reporting by Ngouda Dione, Bate Felix; Writing by Edward McAllister; Editing by Conor Humphries)
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