By Enyichukwu Enemanna
Leaders of the opposition PASTEF-Patriots have condemned the dissolution of the party by the Senegalese Government, which cited incitement for the action viewed as a subtle means to weaken the opposition ahead of the February 2024 national elections.
This comes days after the party’s presidential candidate, Ousmane Sonko was arrested and put in custody for alleged theft and causing insurrection.
The country’s interior minister had on Monday issued a statement claiming Sonko’s opposition party had been dissolved.
The Patriots of Senegal for Work, Ethics and Fraternity (PASTEF) party has “frequently called on its supporters to take part in insurrectionary movements,” Antoine Félix Diome, Senegal’s interior minister, alleged in a statement.
Diome blamed the opposition party’s leaders for causing loss of life and the looting of properties during protests in June against the prosecution of Sonko, who is seen as a key challenger in the election.
Reacting to the party’s dissolution, a former Prime Minister Aminata Touré described it as an “unprecedented setback” in the West African nation’s democratic history. He said it further raises concerns about next year’s presidential election.
“In his despotic determination to hold on to power in Senegal, albeit by proxy, Macky Sall has just opened the floodgates to chaos by imprisoning, on spurious grounds, his main opponent Ousmane Sonko,” a PASTEF communiqué issued on Monday, after Diome’s claimed to have disbanded the party read in part.
“Even if they dissolve PASTEF, they can’t dissolve its spirit,” it said further.
Ousmane Sonko, the presidential candidate widely supported by Senegal’s youth, was in prison on Monday as he awaited trial for new criminal charges, said his party’s communications director, El Malick Ndiaye.
“I’ve just been unjustly placed under a committal order,” Sonko wrote on his Facebook page Monday, which communications director Ndiaye confirmed.
The Senegalese government, meanwhile, restricted mobile internet services on Monday, a measure taken “due to the dissemination of hateful and subversive messages on social networks,” according to Moussa Bocar Thiam, the communications minister.
Residents throughout the country reported they were not able to access the internet.
Sonko said a local judge in the capital Dakar ordered him held temporarily following fresh charges against him Saturday, including conspiracy against the state and calls for insurrection.
The charges are different from an earlier one of corrupting youth. That led to Sonko’s conviction in June, which ignited deadly protests across the nation with 23 people killed.