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No, video of 2023 rally for Senegalese opposition leader Sonko – not 2024 protests against president Sall’s elections decree

IN SHORT: A viral video circulating in February 2024 does show a rally in Senegal’s capital city Dakar, but from a year ago, not to protest the postponement of the country’s elections.

Violent protests erupted in cities across the West African country of Senegal in early February 2024 after president Macky Sall decreed that the elections scheduled for that month would be postponed indefinitely.

Days later the country’s parliament endorsed the decree in a chaotic vote that eventually set a new election date of 15 December.

Sall justified his decision by saying the country “needed more time to resolve controversies over the disqualification of some candidates and a conflict between the legislative and judicial branches of government”.

Elected in 2012, Sall initiated a 2016 referendum that limited presidential rule to two five-year terms. But there are suggestions that the 2024 election delay is linked to Senegal’s recently discovered oil and gas reserves.

Soon after Sall’s decree, a video appeared on social media in Nigeria, South Africa and the US with the claim it showed the February 2024 protests, in which three people have died.

In the footage, thousands of people – many of them waving the flag of Senegal – are peacefully gathered in a city square.

The clip was posted on X, the social media platform previously known as Twitter, on 5 February with these captions:

  • Protests continue in Senegal, with mobile internet cut off in the capital Dakar on Monday after President Macky Sall unexpectedly announced the postponement of elections previously scheduled for February 25 by up to six months.
  • You're watching mass resistance taking place here on the streets of #Dakar as the ppl of #Senegal seek to remove their corrupt president …
  • I love what is happening in Senegal. The people are resisting Sall’s announcement requesting a postponement of the election indefinitely.
  • This is in Senegal yesterday as citizens protested against President Macky Sall’s postponement of the upcoming coming general election.

The claim can also be seen here, here, here and here.

The video was filmed in Dakar, Senegal’s capital. But it’s almost a year older than claimed and the protest it shows was during a different political crisis.


Protests against opposition leader’s defamation case

A Google Lens reverse image search of frames from the video produced two X posts with the same clip from March 2023.

“Senegal opposition leader removed from prison by the PEOPLE,” reads one. The other reads: “The Senegalese release opposition leader from jail.”



We then googled “Senegal opposition leader protest” with the results limited to March 2023.

This led us to several news reports on Ousmane Sonko, leader of the Patriots of Senegal or Pastef political party. Sonko placed third in the country’s 2019 presidential election, where Sall won his second presidential term.

In March 2023 Senegal’s tourism minister Mame Mbaye Niang sued Sonko for “defamation, insult and forgery”. This led to three days of protests in Dakar ahead of the opposition leader’s court date on 16 March.

The viral video, from the 15-second mark, zooms in on a man in a green cap, off-white jacket and brown trousers standing through the open roof of a black utility vehicle, with a white vehicle behind it.

In news videos of the first day of the March 2023 protests, Sonko can be seen in the same clothes standing in the same black vehicle, with the same white vehicle behind it.

The clip was filmed in March 2023, not February 2024.

In June 2023 Sonko was sentenced to two years in prison for “corrupting the youth”. He is still in prison at the time of publication.

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