As the collection of signatures for the presidential election in Senegal is set to begin, there remains an unwavering belief in the candidacy of Senegalese opposition leader Ousmane Sonko in Casamance, his stronghold. The election is scheduled for next February, and Sonko has been in detention since late July. In Ziguinchor, where political activities of the former Pastef party slowed down after the dissolution of the movement, his supporters are determined to reinvigorate their efforts.
In the streets of Ziguinchor, the marks of the June protests are still visible: remnants of barricades burned cars. The headquarters of the Pastef party, dissolved in early August, has been condemned, and the shutters of the small white house are closed. Nevertheless, a few “Free Sonko” banners have emerged. Supporters assert that they remain firmly behind their incarcerated leader.
“Pastef is a spirit. They can dissolve the paperwork like that, but the motivation is still there. People will fight for this party. And everywhere, even in the villages, when I go there, people ask me how he is doing,” explains Boubacar Goudiaby, a sympathizer of Ousmane Sonko.
The Launch of a “Sonko for President” Coalition
Supporters and allies of Ousmane Sonko are organizing themselves to continue their political activism. Seydou Mandiang, the deputy coordinator of the former Pastef in Ziguinchor, states, “We have local cells in neighborhoods. These people cannot be prevented from gathering under a tree for discussions about their activities. Moreover, today we also harness social media.”
The launch of a “Sonko for President” coalition is anticipated soon, potentially allowing a workaround for the dissolution of the Pastef party. Bassirou Coly, the communal youth coordinator, comments, “There are other parties out there with legal permits. This will enable us to conduct our activities legally without being embroiled in the conflicts that Macky Sall desires.”
Meanwhile, the municipality of Ziguinchor continues to operate without its mayor, who has delegated his powers from behind bars.