Young Senegalese demonstrators faced police in riot gear as the trial of the main opposition figure Ousmane Sonko got underway.
For weeks, activists and members of the opposition have denounced “a retreat from democracy” in the country.
“No one agrees with the way those in charge are governing the country,” a teacher said. “No one. There is bad governance. There is injustice. Everyone, can see it with the naked eye. You don’t need a microscope. You can see. So that’s it. So that’s it. So that’s why we’re fighting and we’re willing to give up our lives.”
On Thursday morning, Ousmane Sonko was forcibly removed from his vehicle by gendarmes on his way to court. He’s been accused of slander by Tourism Minister Mame Mbaye Niang, a member of Sall’s party, after accusing him of being criticised by state inspectors for his handling of a rural unemployment scheme.
The 48-year-old has already announced he would run in the 2024 presidential race, but his path faces judicial hurdles.
He faces separate charges of allegedly raping an employee at a massage palour.
The outcome of the two cases opened against him could determine whether he will be eligible to stand for office.
On Tuesday (Mar. 15), Sonko held an authorised rally where he urged thousands of supporters to come en masse to back him on the day of the trial.
Armoured vehicles, gendarmes and barricades were heavily deployed around his house from early Thursday morning.
Riot police were also in place around the courthouse, and many schools in the capital were closed.
A firebrand speaker who came third in the 2019 presidential election, Sonko has enjoyed a rapid political ascent thanks in part to his popularity with young people.
In March 2021, the rape accusations agaisnt Sonko unleashed violence that claimed around a dozen lives
In recent years, several other prominent opposition figures have had their political careers cut short by legal cases. Authorities have denied any misuse of state institutions.