The Supreme Court confirmed the six-month suspended prison sentence handed down in May by the Court of Appeals for defamation against the Minister of Tourism, Mame Mbaye Niang. This ruling effectively bars the opposition leader from participating in the upcoming presidential election, despite his defense holding onto hope for a counter-attack.
The Supreme Court’s deliberation came late in the evening, just before midnight, following nearly 12 hours of hearings during which lawyers for both parties passionately advocated for their absent clients.
Ousmane Sonko’s 13 defense lawyers initially pleaded a constitutional exception, requesting that the Supreme Court relinquish the case in favor of the Constitutional Council.
Subsequently, they sought the annulment of the Court of Appeal’s decision on May 8, citing numerous procedural irregularities, such as an alleged failure to serve their client with a summons. Some of these arguments were partially echoed by the Attorney General, who favored the annulment of the conviction. However, they were ultimately rejected by the judge, who upheld Ousmane Sonko’s six-month suspended prison sentence and imposed a fine of 200 million CFA francs in damages.
The crux of the matter during this session was undoubtedly the opposition leader’s eligibility. One of his attorneys even referred to it as a “match point.” According to his legal team and the electoral code, this definitive conviction renders Ousmane Sonko ineligible for five years. Consequently, he is seemingly barred from contesting the presidential election scheduled for February 25 and is likely to be disqualified by the Constitutional Council.
The defense’s disappointment was palpable. Ousmane Sonko had been convicted on appeal to a six-month suspended prison sentence for defamation and public insult against Mame Mbaye Niang. The Mayor of Ziguinchor had publicly accused the current Minister of Tourism of being implicated in a report by the Inspector General of State for alleged misappropriations.
The 49-year-old leader of the Patriots of Senegal for Work, Ethics, and Fraternity (Pastef), who finished third in the 2019 presidential election, had initially been sentenced in March 2023 to two months of suspended prison and a fine of 200 million CFA francs (approximately 300,000 euros) in damages. In another legal proceeding, Ousmane Sonko was found guilty on June 1 of “corrupting youth” and was sentenced to two years of imprisonment.