Senegalese opposition leader Sonko regains consciousness but remains on hunger strike, lawyer says

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — A lawyer for Senegalese opposition leader Ousmane Sonko said Thursday that the detained politician had regained consciousness but remains “in a very precarious condition” on hunger strike.

Sonko, a popular figure with young Senegalese who placed third in the last presidential election, first began refusing food after he was placed in detention in late July. He later suspended the protest measure following mediation but resumed a hunger strike on Oct. 17, according to lawyer Juan Branco.

Branco told The Associated Press that the opposition leader “is still being treated by a resuscitation team with the risk of a major relapse.” That assessment comes after Sonko's supporters said earlier this week he had lapsed into a coma.

Sonko's supporters believe the slew of criminal allegations brought against him since 2021 are part of an orchestrated campaign to derail his political aspirations ahead of a presidential election in February.

In June, Sonko was acquitted on charges of raping a woman who worked at a massage parlor and making death threats against her. But he was convicted of corrupting youth and sentenced to two years in prison, which ignited deadly protests across the country.

In late July, Senegalese authorities formally dissolved Sonko's political party and placed him in detention. He is now facing charges of calling for insurrection, conspiracy against the state and other alleged crimes.

The government has not commented on Sonko's health since August, when he was transferred to a hospital “presenting a general weakness linked to his refusal to eat.” He was later transferred to the intensive care unit for treatment before suspending his strike after the mediation effort.

Sonko was removed from the electoral roll by the Interior Ministry following his conviction. But this decision was overturned by a judge in the southern city of Ziguinchor, who ordered that he be allowed to have sponsorship forms for the presidential election in the same way as other candidates.

Sonko's chances of taking part in the upcoming election are uncertain, as the Supreme Court has yet to rule on the decision taken by the judge of the Ziguinchor district court.