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Sall to release Sonko but gives no date for election

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Senegal’s outgoing President Macky Sall said yesterday he is ready to release opposition figure Ousmane Sonko, jailed since last July.

“Yes, I am ready to go that far so that everyone can benefit from this pardon and so that Senegal can move towards these elections in a peaceful manner,” Sall said during a televised interview with the press last evening.

He said his mandate will end as planned on April 2. “On 2 April 2024, my mission ends at the head of Senegal”, the president said.

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“As far as the date is concerned, we’ll see what the dialogue comes up with,” he said during a televised press interview, referring to the political dialogue he intends to conduct from Monday.

“The election can be held before or after 2 April,” he said.

But asked whether the election could be held between now and April 2, he replied “I don’t think so.”

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The president called during Wednesday’s cabinet meeting for “all the arrangements” to be made “for the presidential election to be organised well on a date which will be set very soon”, according to the presidency.

It added that this would be “after consultations with politicians, civil society officials and representatives of key actors”.

Sall also said he wanted “dialogue” to calm tensions and asked the justice ministry to finish drawing up draft legislation to follow through on “the will for reconciliation and forgiveness”.

Hundreds of detained opposition and civil society members were released last week.

However, civil society groups have called another rally for Saturday in the capital Dakar to keep up the pressure, after mobilising several thousand people last weekend.

Imprisoned opposition candidate Bassirou Diomaye Diakhar Faye, who is among 19 contenders for the presidency, on Wednesday accused Sall of dragging his feet.

His criticism echoed that of most of the other candidates who accused Sall in a joint statement of “ill will”.

Faye said in a statement he would only agree to talks on setting an election date “without delay” and before the end of Sall’s term.

Faye is deputy to anti-establishment firebrand Ousmane Sonko, who is also in prison.

The national youth coordinator for Sonko’s dissolved political party, Ngagne Demba Toure, was imprisoned on Thursday after being arrested a day earlier, according to one of his lawyers Moussa Sarr.

The coalition supporting the candidate of the president’s party, Prime Minister Amadou Bâ, called on its leaders Wednesday to mobilise voters for a first-round win regardless of when the vote is held.

AFT

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