Senegal opposition leader released as new clashes erupt

DAKAR, SENEGAL (AP) — Riot police in armed personnel carriers fired tear gas and rubber bullets at crowds in Senegal’s capital on Monday hours after authorities freed opposition leader Ousmane Sonko from custody following days of violent protests in one of West Africa’s most stable democracies.

Upon his release, the 46-year-old politician blamed his arrest on Senegalese President Macky Sall, accusing the incumbent leader of seeking to sideline his future political prospects before the country’s 2024 election.

While Sonko publicly accused the president of plunging Senegal into an unprecedented crisis, the opposition leader said his goal wasn’t to force Sall from power. “We don’t want to take responsibility for undermining our democracy,” he tweeted late on Monday.

“But let’s be clear, the revolution is on the march toward 2024.” At least eight people have died since the unrest began last week, according to Amnesty International, marking the worst unrest to hit Senegal in nearly a decade.

Sonko is widely seen as the president’s greatest potential political challenger in the next election.