Senegal main opposition leader, Ousmane Sonko, has called for more protests against President Macky Sall, whom he accuses of being behind the rape charges he’s now facing.
Mr Sonko was addressing supporters hours after being released on bail following the most violent unrest Senegal has seen in years.
He is accused of assaulting a woman who worked in a beauty salon.
Mr Sonko said the demonstrations should be larger but also peaceful and lead to change in the presidential election due in three years.
On the filpside, the widespread public dismissal of the rape allegations against Sonko has troubled victim’s rights advocates, who say reporting sexual assault is already difficult in a nation that did not punish rape as a serious crime until last year.
“This woman was lynched by society,” said Aissatou Baldé, a self-described feminist who leads an association for young Senegalese amputees.
“She and her family have been under tremendous media scrutiny,” said Ousmane Diallo, a West Africa researcher for Amnesty International in Dakar.
“People are dragging her character through the mud, but it should be up to the courts to decide what is fact and what is fiction in this case.”
Tensions had been brewing long before the accusation against Sonko surfaced. The protesters are angered by the ruling party’s increasingly tight grip on power.
There are concerns that Mr Sall may seek a third term in office.
The incumbent has appealed for calm.