Senegalese opposition rally against President Sall's possible third-term ambition

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By Ngouda Dione

DAKAR (Reuters) - Hundreds of Senegalese opposition supporters and civil society activists gathered at a square in the capital on Friday to protest a potential third-term bid by the West African nation's president, Macky Sall.

Senegal has been shaken by violent protests over a host of issues including fears by opposition parties that Sall may seek a third term in office.

Sall, 61, came to power in 2012, and won re-election in 2019. Senegal's new constitution, adopted in 2016, limits presidential terms to two five-year mandates.

Sall has not confirmed or denied he plans to run. He told French newspaper L'Express in March that he could technically run because the new constitution reset the clock on his number of mandates, an argument that has been used by other presidents in the region to run and secure third terms.

"Macky Sall is done. He must not seek a third term. We'll not accept it - not today, not tomorrow," said Ibrahima Lo, a trader from the southern town of Kaolack, who joined the protest in the capital.

The opposition has also accused Sall's government of using the judicial machinery to target potential challengers, including leading opposition firebrand Ousmane Sonko, 48, who placed third in the 2019 presidential election.

The government has denied the opposition's accusations.

Sonko is on trial in two separate cases which could disqualify him from the 2024 presidential race. A court of appeal handed him a heavier suspended sentence on May 8 in a libel case against Senegal's tourism minister.

A separate trial is scheduled to start on Tuesday in which he is charged with raping a beauty salon employee in 2021 and making death threats against her. Sonko has denied both allegations.

His legal troubles and court appearances have stirred violent protests and clashes between his supporters and security forces.

(Reporting by Ngouda Dione in Dakar; Editing by Bate Felix and Matthew Lewis)