In Senegal, anger after the verdict in the Adji Sarr case against Ousmane Sonko

From all sides, there was anger in Dakar

In Senegal, anger after the verdict in the Adji Sarr case against Ousmane Sonko

From all sides, there was anger in Dakar. Thursday, June 1, the verdict of the country's most sensitive political-judicial case did not appease either the victim or the accused. In a court surrounded by a thick police cordon, the judges sentenced Ousmane Sonko, the main opponent of Senegal, to two years in prison for "corruption of youth", a sentence that is enough to make him ineligible for the presidential election in February 2024. On the other hand, he was acquitted of the charges of death threats and rape, for which the prosecutor had requested ten years in prison.

The president of the African Patriots of Senegal for Work, Ethics and Fraternity (Pastef) party was accused by Adji Sarr, a former employee of the Sweet Beauty massage parlour, of repeated rapes between December 2020 and February 2021. She then had 21 years old. "I am devastated," Adji Sarr told Le Monde shortly after leaving the court where she had gone, unlike Mr. Sonko who boycotted the hearings. Ndèye Khady Ndiaye, the owner of the massage parlour, was sentenced to two years in prison for "incitement to debauchery". She will have to pay jointly with Ousmane Sonko 20 million CFA francs (some 30,000 euros) in damages to Adji Sarr.

“Ousmane Sonko had told me several times that no one would believe me. He was right. These two years in prison, I don't give a fuck! He raped me, that's the truth. I am shocked. All that for this. He won, I lost,” she says in a tired voice.

Winner? In the camp of the opponent, we also consider ourselves victims. "This verdict on command is the final stage of a plot hatched by Macky Sall and his henchmen", estimates the national office of Pastef in a press release published Thursday afternoon, calling on "the Senegalese people" to "descend in the street" and asking "law enforcement and the military to get on his side".

Violence in Dakar and Ziguinchor

In a capital where many traders had let their curtains down on Thursday and where many schools had remained closed, a few dozen supporters of Ousmane Sonko protested against the verdict. Young people, who constitute the main electoral base of the opponent, gathered around the University of Dakar, blocking the avenue Cheikh-Anta-Diop with the help of burnt tires, stones and poles. Clashes with the police took place.

"He was accused of rape and he is convicted of corruption of youth, but what justice is that? Says a protester. We are going to block axes to try to show the population and President Macky Sall that we do not agree with him and with justice. Violence has also been observed in Ziguinchor, the capital of Casamance, of which Ousmane Sonko is mayor.

The opposition is united in denouncing the conviction of one of their leaders. "This unfair and totally unjustified sentence reflects a deliberate desire to exclude him from the February 2024 presidential race", denounced Malick Gakou, one of the executives of the Yewwi Askan Wi (YAW) coalition whose is a member of the Pastef.

“It is a surprising verdict. Ousmane Sonko was prosecuted for rape and death threats. However, these two charges not having been retained, one would have expected a pure and simple release. This decision confirms the government's attempt to eliminate Ousmane Sonko from the presidential election. I fear that this unjust verdict will rekindle tensions, but it will strengthen the resistance against a third term for Macky Sall, "said Aminata Touré, former minister of the Senegalese president who went to the opposition in 2022, denouncing the alleged will of Macky Sall to run for a new term.

De facto house arrest

“What was at stake for the government was the free functioning of Senegalese justice. Despite all the intimidation and threats attempted by the accused's side, the justice system, as usual, fully exercised its jurisdiction without pressure and in the most independent way," reacted Abdou Karim Fofana, the spokesperson government and trade minister.

The Senegalese president is accused by his opponents of having organized a "conspiracy" to remove his most dangerous rival from the presidential race in February 2024. The two-year prison sentence deprives Ousmane Sonko of his civil rights, according to Bamba Cissé, one of his lawyers, who says his client cannot appeal the fact that he was tried in absentia. His eligibility is also threatened by another sentencing, a six-month suspended prison sentence, for defamation against the Minister of Tourism, Mame Mbaye Niang, on May 8. The case is now being considered by the Supreme Court.

On Thursday, neither his relatives, nor his lawyers, nor the press could approach the home of Ousmane Sonko in Cité Keur Gorgui, in Dakar. A heavy police force surrounded his house, where he has been under de facto house arrest since he was forcibly brought back to the capital on May 28.

The authorities thus put an end to his "caravan of freedom" from Ziguinchor, the stronghold of the opponent located 500 kilometers south of Dakar. Ousmane Sonko then called on his supporters to join him. He had promised Macky Sall "a final fight" and the "gatsa gatsa" ("an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth"). Early Thursday afternoon, the opponent, used to expressing himself on social networks, had remained silent. The authorities have not announced whether they will arrest him and Ousmane Sonko's lawyers have warned that their client has no intention of giving himself up as a prisoner.