Senegal’s opposition supporters bang pots and pans in protest

Senegalese opposition leader Ousmane Sonko led a peaceful protest banging pots and pans after authorities blocked a rally to publicly confirm he would run in next year’s presidential elections.

Sonko, dressed in red in a sign of anger, appeared outside his home Saturday evening to kick off the protest, “symbolically” banging pots for several minutes.

The 49-year-old had on Thursday (Jul. 13) been “unanimously voted in as the PASTEF-Patriots’ candidate for the February 25, 2024 presidential elections,” a party statement said.

Sonko has been confined by security forces at his home in Dakar since May 28 and his nomination comes despite lingering questions over his eligibility due to criminal convictions and prison sentences.

Plenty of people joined the noisy protest in several districts of the capital Dakar and major towns such as Ziguinchor in the south and Mbacke in the centre, local media reported.

In Dakar’s Parcelles Assainies area, Sonko supporter Malick Diedhiou took part “to send a message of peace… to show unhappiness at what the state is doing against Sonko because it’s illegal,” he said.

Concert of pots and pans

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The governor of Dakar had banned the party’s nomination rally, which was set for Saturday afternoon, due to the “risk of disturbing public order”.

Sonko told supporters “another date” would be chosen. He called for the “concert of saucepans, horns and firecrackers” on Saturday from 8:30 to 9:00 pm (2030 to 2100 GMT) to peacefully express disapproval and call for President Macky Sall “to leave office in peace”.

“Macky Sall is trying to eradicate PASTEF and prevent me from being a presidential candidate,” Sonko said Friday night, urging his supporters to wear red in protest.

The firebrand figurehead has generated a passionate following among Senegal’s disaffected youth, mounting a fiery campaign against Sall, who he paints as a corrupt, would-be dictator.

Sonko has warned of “indescribable chaos” if he is prevented from running for the top office.

His convictions in May and June sparked deadly clashes between supporters and security forces, spawning the worst unrest Senegal has seen in years.

On May 8, an appeals court gave Sonko a six-month suspended term for slander, although it is unclear whether this sentence, which can also be appealed to the Supreme Court, makes him ineligible.

On June 1, Sonko was also handed a two-year term following a trial on charges of sexual abuse of a beauty salon worker.

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