Senegal opposition leader Sonko resumes hunger strike

Thursday October 19 2023
ousmane sonko

Ousmane Sonko (C) looks on during a meeting in Dakar, Senegal on March 14, 2023. PHOTO | AFP


Imprisoned Senegalese opposition figure Ousmane Sonko says he has resumed a hunger strike he called off last month ahead of elections next year.

Sonko, 49, has accused President Macky Sall of attempting to prevent him from running in the 2024 presidential elections, charges Sall, who was elected in 2012 and will not run in the elections, denies.

He was jailed in July on charges including fomenting insurrection, criminal association in connection with a terrorist enterprise and undermining state security over incidents dating back to 2021.

Sonko had been engaged in a fierce tussle with the state for more than two years and says authorities are trying to torpedo his political career.

Read: Senegal opposition leader promises 'chaos' if unable to run

He said he resumed the hunger strike on Tuesday to show "solidarity" with other activists "unjustly arrested for expressing their political opinions", and who are sometimes deprived of "all contact with their loved ones".


"We can only resort to the means of resistance that our current situation allows. That's why I've decided to resume my hunger strike," he said on Facebook and X, formerly Twitter.

One of his lawyers also confirmed that Sonko had resumed his hunger strike.

Last week, a judge ordered that Sonko be reinstated on the electoral lists for the February election after authorities had removed him.

The decision means that Sonko -- who came third in the 2019 presidential election -- will be able to contest, his lawyers said.

Multiple protests since 2021 have left dozens dead in the country normally seen as an island of stability in a troubled region. 

Sonko was found guilty on June 1 of morally corrupting a young woman and sentenced in absentia to two years in prison.

It sparked clashes that left 16 dead, according to the government, or as many as 30, according to his party.

Read: Senegal police clash with students in Dakar

State lawyers have said they will contest the decision by the judge from a district court in the southern city of Ziguinchor to reinstate the opposition figure.