DAKAR (Reuters) -Senegal President Macky Sall will not run for re-election in the 2024 elections, he said in a speech on Monday, ending widespread speculation that he would seek a third term, which his critics said would have been illegal.

Rumours that Sall would try to extend his stay in power have fuelled bouts of deadly unrest since 2021 in which dozens have been killed, and shaken Senegal’s reputation as a bastion of stable democracy in West Africa.

“The 2019 term was my second and last term,” Sall said in a televised speech. “I have deep respect for the Senegalese people”.

The most recent unrest was sparked last month by the sentencing of popular opposition leader Ousmane Sonko to two years in jail on charges stemming from an alleged rape – accusations that he denies and says were politically motivated to stop him from running in the elections.

Sonko called for his supporters to be ready to take to the streets if the president announced a plan to run again.

(Reporting by Ngouda Dione, Diadie Ba and Bate Felix; Writing by Edward McAllister; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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