Senegal: Oppositionist Ousmane Sonko celebrates his election victory in Ziguinchor

By Marième Soumaré
Posted on Tuesday, 25 January 2022 17:53

Ousmane Sonko on 8 March 2021 in Dakar © REUTERS/Cooper Inveen

“It was a beautiful victory.” On 23 January, a triumphant Ousmane Sonko walked the streets of Ziguinchor, even before the official results of Senegal’s municipal and departmental elections had been announced.

From 9pm, the oppositionist started a large procession consisting of several vehicles – from his home, located in the HLM-Nema neighbourhood – which was very quickly joined by a crowd of supporters.

Translation: #SenegalVote #Localelections2022 🇸🇳 Ousmane Sonko, the new mayor, celebrates his victory in the streets of #Ziguinchor on Sunday night in the Escale district, with activist Guy Marius Sagna and Georges Mansaly, winner of the departmental elections for the YAW coalition.  

“We are leading by a large majority in all the city’s polling stations,” said Djibril Sonko, head of Patriotes du Sénégal pour le Travail, l’Ethique et la Fraternité (PASTEF), Sonko’s party. According to the results, which we managed to consult on Sunday, the opposition coalition Yewwi Askan Wi (YAW) beat out its competitors in several of the city’s major voting centres, such as Landing-Tamba.

Shortly after 6pm, the ballots started being counted in the Casamance capital’s main polling centres. Very quickly, Sonko’s supporters began to gather to sing and dance in areas where the YAW coalition’s victory was assured.

Restructuring the political landscape

After walking through the city for an hour and a half, Sonko decided to stop in front of the town hall to address his supporters. Activist Guy Marius Sagna, who had voted with him earlier in the morning, Georges Mansaly, PASTEF’s leader and winner of the departmental elections, and economist Cheikh Tidiane Guèye were at his side.

After thanking his teams for supporting him during a “difficult campaign”, Sonko spoke directly to the city’s youth. “What is happening throughout Senegal today marks a fundamental change,” said the new mayor, referring to “strong trends” in favour of his coalition in Dakar, Touba and Guédiawaye.

Although the country was still waiting for official results, some cities in Senegal already had a clear winner. In Dakar, Sonko’s ally, Barthélémy Dias, was declared victorious.

These victories have reinforced the allies’ status as opposition leaders and herald a restructuring of the political landscape before the legislative elections, which will be held in a few months. “I never doubted [my victory] for a fraction of a second, and the reason why I decided to campaign elsewhere and only spent three days in Ziguinchor is because I had confidence in you,” said Sonko.

During the last presidential election, this member of parliament had inflicted a heavy defeat on Macky Sall’s camp. In this local election, he showed Benoît Sambou, the presidential majority’s candidate, no mercy.

Abdoulaye Baldé’s “regrets”

A few meters from where Sonko addressed his supporters, in a large house located near the town hall, the atmosphere was quite different. At the home of the outgoing mayor, Abdoulaye Baldé, the activists’ defeated faces contrasted with the din of the procession that passed in front of the closed doors.

“I did not expect these results, but we must accept the rules of democracy. I congratulate our brother Ousmane Sonko and his coalition, but also my own coalition. I would also like to thank the people of Ziguinchor, who did me the honour of putting me at the head of their town for nearly 12 years,” said the leader of the Union Centriste du Sénégal from his garden, referring to “regrets” rather than disappointment.

But “the political future does not stop at the mayor’s office,” said this former member of the Parti Démocratique Sénégalais (PDS), who had rallied behind Sall in 2019 before leaving the presidential coalition to run in the local elections. As soon as the official results are confirmed, both the opposition and the majority will start preparing for the legislative elections, which will come very quickly – unless they are postponed, as was the case with the local elections, which were initially scheduled for 2019.

“2024 will be in the palace of the republic”

For Sonko, this victory is only a “first milestone” towards his real destination: “2024 will be in the palace of the republic.”  He concluded: “We can celebrate tonight, but tomorrow we will start working,” says the new mayor.

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