Senegalese opposition leader Ousmane Sonko on Monday called for bigger but peaceful anti-government protests after he was charged with rape but got released on bail under judicial supervision, reported Africa News.
Sonko appeared in court in Dakar on Monday, where he faced questions about a rape charge, which he denies and claims is completely politically motivated.
The 46-year-old was arrested on Wednesday on charges of disturbing public order. He accused the incumbent leader President Macky Sall of seeking to sideline his future political prospects before the country’s 2024 election.
“We don’t want to take responsibility for undermining our democracy,” the Senegalese opposition leader tweeted late Monday. “But let’s be clear, the revolution is on the march toward 2024.”
Sonko came third in the 2019 election, which saw President Macky Sall win a second term in office, and is considered a future presidential contender in the West African state. His supporters have called for three more days of protests starting on Monday and schools in Dakar have been ordered to close for a week.
At least eight people died in clashes between security forces and protesters in the past week, according to rights group Amnesty International, marking the worst unrest to hit Senegal in nearly a decade. The Senegalese Red Cross reported some 235 demonstrators have been injured.
Later on Monday, President Sall also addressed the people saying that he knew they were suffering amid COVID-19”s economic downturn and that the ensuing poverty was only further fueling discontent with his government. He agreed to reduce the nightly curfew that many merchants blame for deepening their hardships.
“I understand your concerns and the anger you feel about the hard life you have to live in, mainly due to the unemployment accentuated by COVID-19,” Sall said. “But when you ransack a business you don’t create jobs, you destroy them.”