By John Ikani
Senegalese opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, currently incarcerated, has officially entered the race for the upcoming February presidential election.
Despite the government’s refusal to provide the necessary paperwork, Sonko, along with his backup Bassirou Diomaye Faye, submitted their candidacies to the constitutional council.
An official of Sonko’s dissolved party – Pastef, Ousseynou Ly, confirmed the move.
In line with other candidates, Sonko faced a deadline of December 26 to submit his candidacy and demonstrate adequate signature collection.
However, the national election body in Senegal failed to furnish Sonko’s representative with the required documents last week.
Undeterred, his legal team decided to proceed with the submission, expressing confidence in the justice system’s impartiality.
“We are certain that his candidacy will be accepted and validated,” asserted Said Larifou, one of Sonko’s lawyers, during a press conference in Paris. Emphasizing the constitutional council’s role as a judicial entity rather than a political one, Larifou underlined their optimism.
Sonko, convicted on June 1 to two years in prison for corrupting minors, chose not to attend his trial and was tried in absentia.
Currently in jail since July on additional charges, including incitement to insurrection, conspiracy with terrorist groups, and endangering state security, Sonko vehemently denies the allegations.
He contends that these legal actions aim to hinder his ability to challenge President Macky Sall in the election slated for February 25.
In a notable development in mid-December, a judge ordered Sonko’s reinstatement on the list of candidates, reaffirming a previous lower court decision that had been initially overturned on appeal.
Former Prime Minister Aminata Touré, formerly allied with President Sall but now part of the opposition, also declared her candidacy for the presidential election on Monday.