A West African court on Monday set November 17 as the date for its decision on the reinstatement of Senegalese opposition figure Ousmane Sonko on the electoral rolls, on which his candidacy for the 2024 presidential election depends.
Lawyers for Mr. Sonko, the central figure in a two-year standoff with the Senegalese government that has sparked several episodes of deadly unrest, have referred the matter to the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas). Among other things, they are asking the Court to order Mr. Sonko’s reinstatement on the electoral rolls, following his removal from the list following his conviction in a vice case.
On October 12, a judge in Ziguinchor (southern Senegal) overturned this disbarment, which prevents Mr. Sonko, who came third in the 2019 presidential election, from standing as a candidate in the February 25, 2024 ballot.
Until then, the Ministry of the Interior had refused to issue Mr. Sonko with the official forms that would enable him to collect sponsorships, a necessary step in filing his candidacy. The Ministry argues that the judge’s decision is not final and that the State has lodged an appeal. The Supreme Court is due to examine this appeal on November 17.
However, on October 31, the National Electoral Commission, a body in charge of overseeing the electoral process, asked the General Directorate of Elections (DGE), which reports to the Ministry of the Interior, to reinstate Mr. Sonko on the lists and issue him with the sponsorship files. On the same day, the DGE refused to do so.
“Ousmane Sonko is just three weeks away from (the deadline for) submitting his sponsorship files for acceptance of his presidential candidacy. The decision of the district judge (of Ziguinchor) must be executed immediately in view of the urgency”, stated one of Mr. Sonko’s lawyers, Ciré Clédor Ly, in court on Monday.
A representative of the State of Senegal, Yoro Moussa Diallo, asked: “that the requests be rejected as ill-founded”.
“We have before us arguments based solely on politics”, he said. The court adjourned the case until November 17.
Mr. Sonko, 49, was convicted on June 1 of debauching a minor and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment. Having refused to appear at the trial, which he denounced as a plot to keep him out of the election, he was sentenced in absentia.
He was imprisoned at the end of July on other charges, including calling for insurrection, criminal association in connection with a terrorist enterprise, and undermining state security.
In mid-October, he announced a new hunger strike.