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At the trial of Ousmane Sonko for defamation, the fracture of the two Senegal


First there is this image. That of a president of a court of justice surrounded by nine hooded agents of the intervention group of the national gendarmerie (GIGN). are we in “a barracks” ?, ask some lawyers who will repeatedly demand that these armed men leave the place. Without success.

Thursday, March 16, while courtroom number 7 of the Dakar courthouse is surrounded by elite gendarmes, the power of President Macky Sall seems to show his muscles and his nervousness. Some streets of the Senegalese capital are guarded by Elephants or other Tigers, names of units flocked on the armored sheet of riot trucks.

Read also: In Senegal, tension rises before the defamation trial of opponent Ousmane Sonko

That morning, the president of the court Pape Mohamed Diop must judge a case that seems ” ordinary “, opened for the first time, on February 2, before being postponed twice: a complaint for defamation between two politicians. On the one hand, Ousmane Sonko, 48, head of the Patriots of Senegal for work, ethics and fraternity (Pastef), mayor of Ziguinchor, the big city of Casamance, and main opponent of the head of state Macky Sall, whom he suspects of wanting to run for a third term in the presidential election on February 25, 2024. On the other side, Mame Mbaye Niang, 46, minister of tourism, whom Mr. Sonko accuses of embezzlement.

“Literally brutalized”, “gassed”

10:41 a.m. The fine silhouette of the leader of the opposition enters the crowded room. He looks stunned, a little lost, almost feverish. On the top of her cream boubou appear reddish traces. His lawyers, more than a dozen, surround him as if to protect him or hug him. One of his advisers, Ousseyenou Fall, then takes the floor: he claims that his client has been “literally brutalized”, “gassed” also by the police when leaving his home, located in Cité Keur Gorgui, north of Dakar, to go to his trial. Just like their colleague Ciré Clédor Ly who then accompanied Mr. Sonko.

Indeed, a little earlier in the morning, the presidential candidate of 2024 was badly manhandled by the police in a cloud of tear gas. For this third hearing, the president of Pastef who appears free wanted to choose his route: on the way, he was taken on board by the multi-purpose intervention brigade (BIP) which brought him to court.

Read also: In Senegal, Ousmane Sonko forced out of his car after appearing in court for defamation

The minutes pass and his lawyers demand the dismissal of the trial so that their client is done “examination by a doctor”. “Traumatized”it would not “psychologically” unable to defend themselves. We are even talking about a “assassination attempt”. We talk about other reasons… Be that as it may, for them as for Mr. Sonko, only one person in charge: Macky Sall, “which makes us live in an atmosphere of terror”ton Me Fall.

Exactly, it’s Ousmane Sonko’s turn to speak. He starts and here is Abdou Karim Diop, the public prosecutor, recently appointed to this post, cut him off: the tone goes up a notch. “You say it’s an ordinary file. How does an ordinary file require all this deployment worthy of a state at war?, he says, addressing the president of the court. He goes on to denounce a ” diet “ Who “instrumentalises” the police and the gendarmerie: “There is no institution in this country! (…) I respect you [mais] do you think, Judge, that Macky Sall is an institution? »

Third dismissal of the trial

In the courtroom, Mr. Sonko takes advantage of these few minutes to engage in a “mini-meeting”, he who had given a “giga-meeting” two days earlier at the Parcelles sanitées in front of tens of thousands of people. 11:18 a.m. New adjournment. The leader of the opposition will not return: he is being examined by a doctor. Just like Ciré Clédor Ly who will be evacuated to the hospital on oxygen.

After a little less than two hours of break, Mr. Sonko’s counsel continue to demand his dismissal, claiming that“Ousmane Sonko is seriously ill, he has asthma”, and this reason makes laugh the lawyers of the civil party just as numerous as those of the defense. The two camps are torn apart, the suspensions of sessions are multiplying. Outside, young people clash with the police in certain districts of the capital.

Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers In Senegal, Ousmane Sonko, the candidate of all frustrations

In her shimmering light blue boubou, Mame Mbaye Niang demands ” justice ” for having been ” offensive ” and waits for the accused to present evidence of his alleged wrongdoing. The room is overheating, and it’s not just the fault of the air conditioners not working.

2:57 p.m. Finally, to ” serenity “ of the debates, the president postpones for the third time – the last possible – the defamation trial to March 30. A decision that does not please everyone. As soon as the audience is up, some come to blows. Then, towards the entrance to the court, a man presented as a member of Ousmane Sonko’s security is, for some reason, caught by the GIGN: an agent sprays him, at point-blank range, with irritating gel in the eyes. The person collapses and, once on the ground, another gendarme takes the opportunity to kick him in the face as if he were kicking a ball.

“We want to prevent him from being a candidate”

Outside, the former mayor of Dakar, Khalifa Sall, who came to support the president of Pastef, is alarmed: “Senegalese democracy is a cracked showcase. » “They are leaking the file”hammers Me El Hadj Diouf, lawyer for the civil party. Flee ? Not really if you listen to Mr. Sonko’s advice. For them, it is important to save time: it is necessary to delay any convictions at first instance, on appeal and in cassation before the presidential election. Because the electoral code provides for ineligibility for any final conviction. “We want to prevent him from being a candidate. They [les juges] are in commissioned service”repeat Me Macodou Ndour.

See as well : Senegal: five things to know about Ousmane Sonko

In the evening, Ousmane Sonko went to a clinic, located very close to his home. His party says the police ” sprayed him with a substance whose nature we do not know “. On his Twitter account, the opponent posted a message: “Since the police dropped me off at home, I have suffered from terrible dizziness, pain in my lower abdomen and difficulty breathing. (…) Macky Sall openly commits yet another assassination attempt on me. »


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The ruling coalition, Benno Bokk Yaakaar, for its part denounced a desire to “Mr. Sonko to obstruct the normal course of justice”.