FILE - Senegalese opposition leader Ousmane Sonko addresses journalists following his release from police custody in Dakar, Senegal, on March 8, 2021. Sonko has been charged with conspiracy against the state and calls for insurrections among other offenses, said the public prosecutor on Saturday, July 29, 2023. (AP Photo/Sylvain Cherkaoui, File)

Ousmane Sonko, the detained Senegalese opposition leader, who is an aspiring presidential candidate and known as President Macky Sall’s most vocal critic, concluded his hunger strike that he initiated on July 30th. Sonko has been grappling with various legal troubles since 2021, which he alleges are politically motivated attempts to sideline him from the political arena.

In late July, Sonko was arrested and charged with multiple offenses, including incitement to insurrection, involvement in a criminal association linked to a terrorist group, and undermining state security, all related to incidents dating back to 2021. Furthermore, on June 1, he was sentenced in absentia to a two-year prison term for corrupting a young woman, a conviction that renders him ineligible to run in the upcoming 2024 election.

Following the commencement of his hunger strike, Sonko was hospitalized on August 6 and subsequently admitted to an intensive care unit, as reported by his legal team and political party.

Announcing the end of the hunger strike, El Hadji Malick Ndiaye, a spokesperson for Sonko’s party, made the announcement on Facebook and X (formerly known as Twitter). Bamba Cisse, one of Sonko’s lawyers, also confirmed this development.

The decision to cease the hunger strike came after several Muslim leaders appealed to Sonko to end his protest. In Senegal, which has a Muslim-majority population, religious leaders often play a role in mediating political disputes. According to a close aide who requested anonymity, Sonko agreed to the request of Caliph General Serigne Mountakha Mbacke, a influential Muslim leader and the head of the powerful religious brotherhood, the Mourides.

Sonko’s lawyers and party had previously warned that his health had significantly deteriorated, placing his life in jeopardy.

Sonko has garnered a passionate following, particularly among disenfranchised youth in Senegal. He portrays President Sall as an aspiring dictator presiding over a corrupt elite, while Sall’s supporters argue that Sonko is causing instability in the country.

Senegal’s Justice Minister, Ismaila Madior Fall, declared at the end of the previous month that Sonko’s conviction in the moral corruption case was “final,” rendering him ineligible for the 2024 presidential election.

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