In Senegal, opponent Ousmane Sonko and his party at the center of all attention

After seven months of voluntary exile in Canada, Ababacar Sadikh Top announced, Monday February 19 on Facebook, his upcoming arrival in Senegal

In Senegal, opponent Ousmane Sonko and his party at the center of all attention

After seven months of voluntary exile in Canada, Ababacar Sadikh Top announced, Monday February 19 on Facebook, his upcoming arrival in Senegal. After Ngagne Demba Touré, youth coordinator of the former Pastef (African Patriots of Senegal for work, ethics and fraternity), who appeared the day before in Dakar during a meeting, he is the second major figure of the movement of incarcerated opponent Ousmane Sonko to make public his return to the country, in a context of unprecedented crisis caused by the postponement of the presidential election.

Once considered a pariah by those in power, the leader of the ex-Pastef, incarcerated since July 2023 for various charges, including “calling for insurrection”, is once again at the center of the political game. On February 9, he received a visit from businessman Pierre Goudiaby Atepa at Cap Manuel prison. The architect, who had spoken the day before with President Macky Sall, subsequently presented himself as one of the mediators working, with the approval of the authorities, to try to find a compromise with the main force of 'opposition.

After a directive from the Head of State addressed to his government "to pacify the public space", more than 300 detainees, most of them sympathizers of Ousmane Sonko arrested during the demonstrations of March 2021 and June 2023, were placed in custody. temporary freedom. “We are in the direction of relaxation, in the direction of easing political-social tension,” declared Tuesday, February 20, the Minister of Justice Aïssata Tall Fall, during a press conference, not excluding not that Ousmane Sonko and his second, Bassirou Diomaye Faye – whose presidential candidacy was validated despite his incarceration – are also released. “Files are assessed on a case-by-case basis, everything is possible according to the law, everything is possible according to the procedure,” she said. According to an aide to the minister, more than 200 other files are under examination.

For Pierre Goudiaby Atepa, interviewed by RFI, these releases were required from Ousmane Sonko as a prerequisite for any discussion. But, at Pastef, there are few executives who agree to address the issues of this mediation. “What Mr. Atepa says is his own. When the time comes for Sonko to speak out – if he has the opportunity of course – he will do so. And at that moment, we will know his position,” asserts Ousseynou Ly, member of the opponent’s cabinet.

Khalifa Sall's spades

This attention paid to the mayor of Ziginchor is not to everyone's taste. The former mayor of Dakar, Khalifa Sall, candidate for the presidential election, did not hesitate to highlight the opacity of the current negotiations. This former Pastef ally was excluded in August from the Yewwi Askan Wi opposition coalition because of his participation in the national dialogue convened in May by Macky Sall and accused of “collusion” with the presidential majority. “We had assumed and explained our decision to go for dialogue, but concerning this release of the prisoners, which we welcome, the people must know what negotiations underlie them and what is their objective”, launched the leader of Taxawu Senegal, this weekend, during a press briefing.

In recent years, consultations with those in power have often been dangerous for opponents, because they could be perceived as proof of compromise by part of public opinion and the opposition. For the moment, the leaders of the ex-Pastef are citing "the absence of information and access to Sonko", or even a debate "not on the agenda" within the party, but are holding to remember that we have never been opposed to a dialogue with those in power.

“In principle, the party is not against dialogue, but President Sonko has long repeated that he does not dialogue with a knife to his throat or a gun to his head,” explains Ayib Daffé, MP and interim secretary general. movement. Whatever anyone says, our party is dissolved, our president and our secretary general and presidential candidate [Bassirou Diomaye Faye] are in prison: these are objective limits to a dialogue. »

A blanket amnesty?

“Macky Sall is targeting Sonko by talking about an inclusive election, but how does he intend to integrate him? A general amnesty that would erase Sonko's convictions and also the state's crimes? Sonko says niet! Let’s limit ourselves to the 20 validated candidates! [there are only 19 left after the withdrawal on Monday of Rose Wardini],” asserts a party executive.

On February 16, the Head of State announced that he would launch “without delay the necessary consultations” for the organization of the vote, but Ousmane Sonko’s entourage as well as a large part of the political class claim not yet to have been invited. Sixteen candidates also warned on Monday that Macky Sall could no longer “remain in power or have authority” beyond the end of his mandate on April 2, emphasizing “the urgency of executing the decision of the Constitutional Council.” .

“My firm conviction is that we must not accept that we are violating the Constitution by going beyond the date of April 2, it is a way of extending the mandate of Macky Sall. But we can reduce the duration of the campaign if the actors agree, because there is no intangibility on this point,” says Dame Mbodj, member of the Diomaye President coalition.