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Senegal's Sonko files lawsuit in France against president Sall for 'crimes against humanity'

Macky Sall called the legal complaint "ridiculous".

By Rédaction Africanews

and AFP

A 170-page long complaint has been lodged against Senegalese president Macky Sall.

His main opponant Ousmane Sonko has filed a criminal complaint in France for “crimes against humanity” allegedly committed between March 2021 and June 2023.

Sonko’s lawyer broke down the accusations during a presser on Thursday (June 22).

Juan Branco, Senegalese opposition leader Ousmane Sonko’s lawyer :

“For the past month we have been conducting a lengthy investigation with the participation of hundreds of Senegalese, whom I would like to thank, French lawyer Juan Branco said.

“[They were] citizens, civil servants, people working in all of the country’s administrations who have provided us with evidence, documents, contracts, videos, testimonies, that have enabled us to establish the existence of 60 crimes of murder considered to be crimes against humanity.”

During the press conference, French-Spaniard lawyer Juan Branco projected videos and photos, some of them containing distressing footage, allegedly showing Senegalese demonstrators getting killed or seriously injured during the deadly unrest earlier in June.

While the government toll for June is 16 dead, Amnesty International has counted 23 fatalities and the opposition tally stands at 30.

Sonko alleges that deadly clashes following his sentencing to jail time this month are the latest step in “a generalised and systematic attack on the civilian population” of Senegal since March 2021.

He was convicted to two years in prison for “corrupting the youth”. A beauty salon worker accused him of death threats and rape. 

The deadly protest following the court’s verdict are the worst Senegal has seen in years, following a previous outburst two years ago when at least 12 died.

2024 presidential election

In addition to the president, opposition leader Sonko’s case targets Senegal’s Interior Minister Antoine Diome, military police chief Moussa Fall and 112 others.

His criminal complaint has been filed with the Paris tribunal’s crimes against humanity unit.

Sall and Diome have “ordered and supervised the commission” of crimes “against unarmed demonstrators since March 2021”, including “murders, torture and forced disappearances”, it alleges.

Sonko also requested a probe by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

He uses a provision that allows any person or group to ask for an investigation to be opened.

The tension is high in Senegal, who is gearing towards a presidential election in 2024.

Sharp-tongued and charismatic, Sonko has drawn a strong following among Senegal’s youth, who love his barbs against the political elite he refers to as the “state mafia”.

He announced he would contest in next year’s polls, however his conviction could prevent him from running.

President Macky Sall, who rode to power in 2012 on a wave of anger over his predecessor Abdoulaye Wade’s efforts to seek a third term in office — has refused to rule out a similar move.

Demonstrators opposed to Sall were pushed back Thursday (June 22) by police officers on the outskirts of Paris, where the Senegalese President is attending an international summit.

Macky Sall called the legal complaint “ridiculous”.

Tax inspector turned politican

Sonko founded his PASTEF-Les Patriotes party in 2014.

However, he gained prominence two years later when he was fired from his tax inspector job for publicly slamming murky public sector contracts and calling out the political elite.

Sonko took his next step up the political ladder in 2017, when he was elected MP, followed in 2019 by an impressive tilt at the presidential elections.

Running on an anti-establishment ticket against veteran rivals, he came in third with 15 percent of the vote, an unexpectedly strong result for such a newcomer.

Sonko’s approach “is the antithesis of our democratic culture and traditions,” said Yoro Dia, one of the president’s advisors.

Divisive personality

Sonko is stoking the prospect of violence to escape justice, Dia said.

He described Sonko as “the Trojan Horse of the Salafists,” whose puritan, ultra-orthodox form of Islam contrasts with Senegal’s more tolerant Sufi mysticism.

Sonko was born in the restive southern region of Casamance.

Amadou Badji, a 75-year-old pensioner in the region’s main town, Ziguinchor, said Sall had been targeting Sonko for the past five years “simply because he raises hope.”

But 33-year-old coffee seller Algassim Diallo said that “the country has been taken hostage for the past two years by a tale about rapes… It’s time to move on.”

African News

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