Senegal: opponent arrested for questioning intentions of Macky Sall

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A Senegalese opponent is in police custody on Thursday after publicly questioning the withdrawal of President Macky Sall, who announced on Monday that he would not seek a third term in 2024, his lawyer said.

Birame Souleye Diop, chairman of the parliamentary group of the opposition coalition Yewwi Askan Wi and executive of Pastef, the party of Ousmane Sonko, the president’s fiercest opponent, was arrested on Wednesday after warning of a possible reversal of the head of state.

“I warn the next candidates of the APR (the presidential party): Avoid eating at his house, avoid drinking his water, he is capable of poisoning you and saying: as we no longer have a candidate, I will be back. And to do it à la Ouattara. Beware,” he said at a press conference on Tuesday, before apologizing.

Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara had chosen Amadou Gon Coulibaly to succeed him, but the latter’s death from heart problems when he was 61 years old prompted Mr Ouattara to run for president in 2020 when he had announced that he did not want to run for a third term.

Mr Diop is being prosecuted for “defamation committed by a member of the National Assembly against a foreign head of state likely to undermine the diplomatic relations of the state” and “discredit on an institution of the Republic”, indicated his lawyer, Me Moussa Sarr.

“He is still in police custody at the Sûreté Urbaine central police station in Dakar,” he said.

The main opposition coalition, of which Pastef is a part, “deplores the treatment reserved for this affair”, in a press release published Thursday evening. She affirms that “despite (the) public apologies” of the respondent to President Sall, “the politico-judicial machine was activated” and “in defiance of (the) quality of deputy” of Mr Diop, covered by immunity.

The coalition believes it has “a high awareness of the fraternal, friendly and historic relations between Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire that cannot be compromised by comments made in a context of political and social tension”.

President Macky Sall’s decision not to run has eased a very heavy political climate in Senegal.

The two-year prison sentence for opponent Sonko has caused the most serious unrest in Senegal for years, killing 16 officially, around 30 according to the opposition.

Mr Sonko shouts at the plot of power to exclude him from the presidential election of February 2024 and his party estimates the number of “political detainees” at more than 300.

The government denies both charges.

Africanews/Hauwa M.