Ousmane Sonko

Ousmane Sonko (born 15 July 1974) is a Senegalese politician and former tax inspector. Sonko was the PASTEF candidate in the 2019 presidential election, ultimately placing third. A major figure of the Senegalese opposition against incumbent president Macky Sall, his arrest and subsequent investigation by authorities from 2019 following sexual assault accusations have triggered mass protests and rioting across Senegal. In June 2023, he was sentenced to two years in prison, and in July 2023, his party PASTEF was dissolved by the Senegalese government.

Early life

Sonko was born in Thiès and spent his childhood in Sébikhotane and Casamance. His father was from Casamance and his mother was from Khombole.[1]

Sonko received his baccalaureate in 1993, and graduated with a masters degree in Juridical Science from Gaston Berger University in Saint-Louis in 1999. He subsequently attended the National School of Administration and the Judiciary.[2]

Prior to entering politics, Sonko worked for 15 years as a tax inspector in Pikine.[3][4] In 2016, he acted as a whistle blower, exposing the use of offshore tax havens including a $50 million mineral sands processing plants used by a Canadian company to avoid paying $8.9 million in taxes. Sonko’s employment as a tax inspector was terminated as a result of his whistleblowing.[5][6] In 2018, he published Pétrole et gaz au Sénégal, a non-fiction book chronicling his findings.[7]


In 2014, Sonko founded the African Patriots of Senegal for Work, Ethics and Fraternity (French: Patriotes africains du Sénégal pour le travail, l’éthique et la fraternité, PASTEF). Between 2017 and 2022, he served as a member of the National Assembly.[8]

In 2018, Sonko published Solutions, a book in which he put forward his political manifesto.[9] He was a candidate in the 2019 presidential election, where he called for Senegal to replace the franc with a domestic currency. In the election, Macky Sall was re-elected, with Sonko placing third with 16% of the vote.[10] During the lead up to the election, Sonko reported being targeted with anonymous smears aimed at discrediting his character.[11]

In September 2021, Sonko launched the coalition « Free the People » (Wolof: Yewwi aksan wi) with the aim of gaining seats in municipal and departmental councils controlled by parties within Macky’s presidential coalition, United in Hope.[12] During the 2022 local elections, Sonko was elected as Mayor of Ziguinchor.[13] His coalition also managed to gain control of local councils from United in Hope, notably in Dakar, in addition to 56 of the 165 parliamentary seats in the National Assembly.[14][8]

2021 arrest

In February 2021, an employee of a massage parlour filed a complaint against Sonko for « repetitive rape and death threats ».[15] On 3 March 2021, Sonko was arrested near Cheikh Anta Diop University and charged with disturbing public order; Sonko called the charges were false and politically motivated.[16] Sonko’s arrest led to protests; clashes between the police and student protestors in Dakar, Bignona and Diaobe led to 14 reported deaths.[17][18] Protests against Sonko’s detainment also occurred internationally, with one outside the United Nations headquarters in New York City, United States, calling for Sonko’s release from prison.[19]

Alioune Badara Cissé called on the Senegalese government to stop threatening and intimidating protestors, and also called upon demonstrators to end its violence and looting, warning the Senegal was « on the verge of an apocalypse ». The Economic Community of West African States similarly called for restraint and calm, as well as for the government to guarantee citizens the right to protest.[20]

In February 2021, MPs voted by majority to remove Sonko’s parliamentary immunity in a vote which was described as « flawed and illegal » by opposition politicians.[21] Sonko was released under investigation; in May 2021, a judge denied to authorise him leaving the country due to his indictment for rape.[22]

Criminal convictions

On 8 May 2023, following an appeal, Sonko received a six-month suspended prison sentence for defamation and insults against Mame Mbaye Niang.[23]

On 1 June 2023, following two years of investigations, Sonko was cleared of rape charges, but was sentenced to two years imprisonment for « corrupting youth ».[24] Sonko had not attended the trial, calling the investigation politically motivated and evidence of malpractice.[25] His conviction made Sonko ineligible to stand as a candidate in the 2024 presidential election, which prompted protests to occur throughout Senegal.[26] Some supporters of Sonko have stated that due to « corrupting youth » being considered a misdemeanour rather than a crime under Senegal law, that Sonko was still able to run; in July 2023, he was named as PASTEF’s presidential candidate for the 2024 presidential election.[27]

On 28 July 2023, Sonko was arrested again and accused of « disturbing the public order ».[28] On 31 July 2023, PASTEF was dissolved by the Senegalese government, triggering national protests.[29] On 6 August 2023, Sonko was reportedly hospitalised following a week-long hunger strike in protest of his arrest.[30]

Political stances and criticism

In addition to his stance on tax reform, Sonko has proposed toughening anti-homosexuality laws in Senegal, and is a proponent of the death penalty.[31][32]

Sonko’s critics have accused him of having links to the Muslim Brotherhood and claim that he wishes to implement Salafi Islam in Senegal, citing his membership of the Association of Muslim Students of Senegal during his years at university.[33]

Vous aimerez aussi...

Laisser un commentaire

Votre adresse e-mail ne sera pas publiée. Les champs obligatoires sont indiqués avec *