Around 5,000 supporters of Senegalese opposition leader Ousmane Sonko gathered in Dakar, the capital, on Tuesday for a three-day protest to show support for the aspiring presidential candidate, who faces a libel case which is set to resume this week.
The demonstrations are the latest expression of growing tensions in Senegal in the run-up to a 2024 election that could see President Macky Sall vie for a controversial third term, which the opposition says is unconstitutional.
Sall, 61, has neither confirmed nor denied that he plans to run, amid widespread speculation. The poll would pit him against Sonko, who came third in the last election and has since gained clout, particularly among disillusioned urban youth.
Hundreds of Sonko supporters milled around an empty field in Dakar’s Yoff neighbourhood on Tuesday waiting for the demonstration to kick off. Some waved Senegalese flags and photos of Sonko.
There was a heavy security presence, including dozens of anti-riot vehicles.
Police are quick to crack down on protests in Senegal. The last pro-Sonko protests, which broke out after he left court last month, were dispersed with tear gas.
“We are sick of this repression, no one can protest in Senegal. Macky (Sall) cannot be a candidate,” said Codou, a protester who travelled from the nearby city of Thies.