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Senegal: Court resumes hearing of rape suit against opposition leader, Sonko

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Court proceedings resumed on Tuesday for the trial of Senegalese opposition leader, Ousmane Sonko over rape allegations.

The politician was charged with rape and making death threats against an employee of a beauty salon in Dakar but denies all wrongdoing and insists that his legal travails are politically motivated and aimed at scuttling his bid for the 2024 presidency.

The court sat amid a strong security presence in Dakar, the capital city, as there were concerns over likely protests by Sonko’s supporters which could descend into pandemonium as with recent occasions.

His lawyer, Massokhna Kane said they had not been served a summon to appear in court.

“So, that’s why today the lawyers intervened to say firstly there was this element, this irregularity. And then there’s also the fact that there were security concerns which meant that Sonko could not come, even if he wanted to,” said Kane.

Ndèye Khady Ndiaye, the lawyer for the former salon owner, who is also joined in the suit and accused of complicity in the alleged rape, asked the court for more preparation time and further adjournment of the hearing but withdrew the prayers as the prosecutor dismissed their demands.

“All the defendants are free, there is absolutely no urgency to try this case today. So, what happened is, all the lawyers, both those of Ndèye Khady Ndiaye and of Ousmane Sonko, decided to withdraw from the room,” said Ndiaye’s lawyer, Macodou Ndour.

The trial comes weeks after Sonko suffered a setback to his political ambition as an Appeal Court handed him an extended six-month sentence following his trial for libel which puts his political future in doubt as he might be disqualified from running for the 2024 presidential elections if the ruling stands.

Sonko was one of the top five candidates in the 2019 presidential election, finishing third with 687,523 votes, just behind President Sall and second-placed Idrissa Seck. If convicted, that could be the end to his plans to run again for president.

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South Africa: Parliament reelects Cyril Ramaphosa as president

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President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa has been re-elected for a second term. He was nominated for re-election on Friday by a member of his African National Congress (ANC) party during the first sitting of parliament following last month’s election.

Julius Malema, the opposition Economic Freedom Fighter, was also put forward for the nation’s presidency, necessitating a vote in parliament to determine the winner.

With a majority of votes in the National Assembly, Chief Justice Ramaphosa was proclaimed president. Julius Malema, the leader of the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters party, received 44 votes, while Ramaphosa received 283.

The Democratic Alliance party said earlier in the day that it would support Ramaphosa in the election as part of a deal to establish a unity government with the African National Congress.

President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa has been re-elected for a second term. He was nominated for re-election on Friday by a member of his African National Congress (ANC) party during the first sitting of parliament following last month’s election.

Out of the 400 seats in the recently elected National Assembly, 246 are held by the ANC and DA.

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Niamey court revokes immunity of overthrown Nigerien president

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The State Court of Niamey has revoked the immunity of Niger’s deposed President, Mohamed Bazoum, signalling the start of criminal proceedings against him by the junta, according to a statement from his attorneys on Friday.

In July of last year, a military coup overthrew Bazoum. Since then, he and his spouse have remained in custody despite numerous requests for his release from Western nations and the ECOWAS regional political and economic grouping.

 

Colonel Amadou Abdramane, the junta’s spokesperson, stated on state television in August that the military government had “gathered the necessary evidence to prosecute the ousted president and his local and foreign accomplices for high treason and for undermining the internal and external security of Niger before competent national and international authorities.”

In a statement, one of his attorneys, Moussa Coulibaly, claimed that the court’s ruling cleared the path for Bazoum to face charges of treason and conspiracy to compromise state security.

The court proceedings “violated (ed) the absolute rights of the defence: we were not authorised to meet our client and the court refused to hear our arguments,” he added.

It was not immediately able to get in contact with the Niger government for a response. Because of Bazoum’s interactions with foreign heads of state and international organizations, the junta declared last year that it would bring high treason charges against him.

Following 2020, there have been eight coups in West and Central Africa that have brought the military government to power. Calls for Bazoum’s reinstatement have gone unanswered, including by the ECOWAS Court of Justice, which declared last year that his arrest was unjustified.

According to Bazoum’s attorneys, he and his spouse had never appeared before a magistrate. Lawyers said that since October, when their phone line at the White House was taken away, they have been cut off from the outside world and are only permitted to have visitors from their doctor.

Mohamed Bazoum Salem, the 23-year-old son of the deposed president, was given provisional parole from house imprisonment by the Niger military tribunal in January.

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