The prominent opposition figure in Senegal, Ousmane Sonko has been sentenced to two years in jail on charges of “corrupting youth” by a court decision.
However, on Thursday, the court acquitted Sonko, who is also a candidate in the upcoming 2024 presidential election, of rape charges and issuing death threats.
Sonko, aged 48, had been accused of sexually assaulting a woman working at a beauty salon in 2021, as well as threatening her life. Sonko maintains his innocence and has chosen to boycott the court proceedings.
The case has sparked violent protests, as Sonko’s supporters vehemently reject the charges against him, claiming they are politically motivated. On the other hand, the government and justice officials deny any political interference in the case.
The immediate impact of this conviction on Sonko’s eligibility to participate in next year’s election remains uncertain. According to Senegal’s electoral code, individuals convicted of a criminal offense are prohibited from running for political office.
In addition to this conviction, Sonko is currently appealing a separate six-month suspended prison sentence for libel. The consequences of this conviction on his presidential aspirations are unclear as well. The court has also sentenced Ndeye Khady Ndiaye, the owner of the beauty salon and Sonko’s co-accused, to two years imprisonment.