By Enyichukwu Enemanna
Ahead of the February presidential election in Senegal, the candidate of PASTEF Party and vocal opposition leader, Ousmane Sonko has announced the commencement of a hunger strike to protest what he call “oppression” and “persecution”.
The firebrand politician is currently in custody after his arrest on Friday by security forces who whisked him away after his Friday prayers from his home.
He was accused of stealing a mobile phone of a soldier whose vehicle broke down near the opposition politician’s home as well as fomenting insurrection.
Senegal’s public prosecutor on Saturday announced seven new charges against Sonko nearly two months after he was sentenced in absentia to two years imprisonment for immoral behaviour towards individuals younger than 21, which disqualifies him from contesting the presidential poll.
“In the face of so much hate, lies, oppression, persecution, I have decided to resist”, Sonko wrote in social media post on Sunday. “I am going on hunger strike… I invite all political detainees to do the same.”
He is due to appear in court on Monday.
His June 1 sentencing in absentia triggered clashes that left at least 16 dead.
Sonko, a vocal critic of President Macky Sall, has faced a string of legal woes, which he claims are aimed at keeping him out of politics.
The new charges are not unconnected with comments he has made, rallies he has held, and other episodes since 2021, including an incident at his home on Friday that led to his arrest.
In addition to calling for insurrection, the charges include undermining state security, acts aimed at jeopardising public security and creating serious political unrest, criminal association with a terrorist body and theft.
His lawyers have argued that his arrest on these new allegations cancels out the moral corruption conviction, because he had been sentenced in absentia