Millennium Post (Kolkata)

Top Senegal Oppn leader vows to help win March 24 election

Despite being barred from the ballot


Top opposition leader Ousmane Sonko vowed on Friday to help his team win Senegal’s March 24 presidenti­al election even though he is barred from the ballot, jumping into the campaign in his first public address since being freed from prison a day earlier.

Ousmane Sonko’s release late Thursday after months behind bars triggered a mix of jubilation and political uncertaint­y on the streets of the capital, Dakar. Thousands took to the streets in celebratio­n, reinvigora­ting enthusiasm for the election that will decide whether the West African country can remain a stable democracy in a region that has experience­d a wave of coups and attempted coups.

A charismati­c former tax collector and mayor of the southern city of Ziguinchor,

Sonko is seen as as the main challenger to President Macky Sall’s governing party.

His key ally, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, who was also freed from prison late Thursday, has been named the opposition’s presidenti­al candidate. Their release follows Sall’s decree to exonerate political prisoners, including hundreds arrested in the violent protests last year.

“The message will be short. The important thing is our candidate. We have an election to win. Every hour counts. We have lost a lot of time. We will be on the ground for the victory of our candidate,” Sonko said at a news conference.

In his brief message, Sonko restated some of the key tenets of his campaign: the need to fight corruption in the government and to protect Senegal’s economy from the influence of foreign powers.

The protests have once again rocked Senegal’s image as a pillar of stability in West Africa. Since gaining independen­ce from France in 1960, it has held regular elections and never experience­d a coup, unlike many other nations in the Sahel region.

Following Sonko’s release on Thursday night, Dakar was thronged with thousands of people singing and dancing as convoys of supporters drove around tooting horns and young people piled onto motorbikes and trucks.

Fresh graffiti on Dakar streets Friday morning rallied in support of Sonko. On their way to work, Senegalese speculated about how the turn of events might affect the vote later this month.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India