By Enyichukwu Enemanna
Ahead of the February presidential election in Senegal, the hope of main opposition and leader of the PASTEF Party, Ousmane Sonko to stand as candidate has been dashed as the country’s Supreme Court has upheld libel conviction against him.
The Supreme Court on Thursday affirmed a six-month suspended prison sentence against Sonko for accusing Tourism Minister Mame Mbaye Niang of embezzling funds.
A court had last month ordered his reinstatement on the electoral roll, paving the way for him to contest in the election, after he had previously been barred following a conviction in a different case.
Sonko had in a televised address in 2022 made the allegation against the Tourism Minister but was only charged in March last year.
Two months later, a court in Dakar extended his suspended sentence from two months to six months, putting his candidacy at risk.
The suspended prison sentence of six months which has just been affirmed by the top court makes Sonko ineligible to stand for the presidential race as provided in Senegal’s electoral code.
He was first delisted from the electoral roll after his conviction in absentia for morally corrupting a young woman.
In July, the 49-year-old former tax inspector was accused of fomenting an insurrection and is currently in prison awaiting trial.
Sonko has denied wrongdoing, insisting that the charges against him are politically motivated.
The government has denied allegations that it’s using the judiciary to get Sonko disqualified from the race.
He is seen as a strong potential challenger in the race to succeed President Macky Sall, who is stepping down after two terms.
His now dissolved party, PASTEF had said it is considering backing another candidate.