Some protesters set fire to buses belonging to Senegal’s national public transport company and targeted French shops. Unrest also was reported in the city of Thies, 68 kilometers (42 miles) east of the capital, as well as in the southern towns of Ziguinchor and Bignona and in Saint-Louis in the country’s north.
On Thursday, a convoy of opposition supporters spent more than a hour making its way between Sonko’s home and the courthouse, where he was to appear in connection with a civil lawsuit against him by Senegal’s tourism minister for alleged defamation.
Once in court, Sonko asked to see a doctor saying he had been mishandled by police when they forced him out of his car. Judge Pape Mouhamed Diop postponed the hearing until March 30.
In a separate matter, Sonko is also facing rape charges after a female massage salon employee came forward and accused him of assault. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison and would be barred from running for president. No date is set for the this trial.
Sonko maintains his legal troubles are part of an effort by President Macky Sall’s government to derail his candidacy in the 2024 election. The opposition figure has urged Sall to say publicly that he will not seek a third term in office.
Thursday marks the second time in a month that Senegalese authorities have forcibly removed Sonko from his vehicle, saying his movements caused disruption. In mid-February, police smashed the window of his car so they could open the door and force him out.
In 2021, days of deadly protests erupted after Sonko was arrested for disturbing public order while on his way to the courthouse for a scheduled appearance in the rape case. At least 13 people died during the worst violence to rock Senegal in years.