Senegal: Riots after verdict against opposition leaders
In Senegal, a presidential candidate is sentenced to two years in prison. Protests against the verdict turned violent. At least 15 people die.
Africa’s flagship democracy, Senegal, has seen its most violent days in decades. At least 15 people have died in clashes between opposition supporters and security forces in the West African country since Thursday.
In the capital Dakar and the southwestern city of Ziguinchor, six people died on Friday, an Interior Ministry spokesman said. On Thursday there were already nine deaths in both cities. According to the government, two security forces are among the dead.
Presidential candidate convicted
The violent protests erupted after leading opposition politician and presidential candidate Ousmane Sonko was sentenced to two years in prison on Thursday for abuse. A court in Dakar saw it as proven that the 48-year-old repeatedly abused a minor in a beauty salon. In Senegal, the age of majority is 21. The court acquitted him of the charge of rape. Sonko called the allegations politically motivated.
Sonko is considered President Macky Sall’s closest challenger. He is unlikely to stand in the February 2024 elections. In May, Sonko was sentenced to a six-month suspended prison sentence for defamation after he accused Tourism Minister Mame Mbaye Niang of embezzlement on television last year.
Internet and communication services blocked
In order to restrict the demonstrators’ communication, the government temporarily blocked the Internet and the social networks Whatsapp, Messenger and Telegram. According to media reports, the government deployed the army on Saturday to prevent further clashes. On Sunday it was initially quiet on the streets.
The US State Department was concerned about the violence and damage. “We urge everyone involved to express their opinions peacefully,” said a spokesman.
The allegations against the opposition leader have repeatedly led to protests in the country with 17 million inhabitants. According to Amnesty International, 14 people died in clashes after his arrest in March 2021. In June 2022 and in May of this year there were two deaths each.
Senegal is considered a stable multi-party democracy. Amnesty called for “credible investigations” into the circumstances of the deaths and criticized “arbitrary arrests” of demonstrators.