Nine dead in protests in Senegal after opposition leader's prison sentence | International
Nine people were killed in protests that broke out across Senegal on Thursday after opposition leader Ousmane Sonko was sentenced to two years in jail. This was confirmed by Antoine Diome, Minister of the Interior, in a televised appearance in which he also acknowledged that the Government had temporarily suspended the use of social networks and platforms such as WhatsApp, Twitter or YouTube. Numerous public and private buildings have been destroyed, from colleges to supermarkets, gas stations and a train station, and intense clashes between young people and law enforcement in different parts of the country until late at night. Dakar dawns this Friday with the fear that new incidents will be repeated.
"We note with regret the violence that led to the destruction of public and private property and, unfortunately, nine deaths in Dakar and Ziguinchor," the minister said in his brief message. "After noting the spread of hateful and subversive messages on social networks, the State of Senegal, with all sovereignty, has decided to temporarily suspend the use of certain digital applications," he added. Finally, he reminded the media of their obligation to respect the press code to prevent any attack on State security and called for calm and assured that the Government is taking "all necessary security measures."
One of the hot spots of the protests this Thursday in Dakar was the Chiekh Anta Diop University, where the damage has been considerable. Dozens of cars were set on fire and several faculties razed. Since Thursday night and this Friday morning, hundreds of students who had been trapped inside the campus have been trying to find means of transportation to return to their cities and towns in the interior of the country. Violence between protesters and police was also especially intense in cities in the south of the country, such as Ziguinchor and Bignona, as well as in Mbour, Kaolack or Saint Louis, in the north.
In several towns, supermarkets and gas stations were set on fire. The circulation of the train that connects the capital with Diamniadio was interrupted after the Rufisque station burned down, among other incidents. Most bus services have also been suspended; schools and shops closed, as well as the public administration. Dakar wakes up this Friday with the fear that scenes of violence like those experienced on Thursday will occur again.
A court in Dakar sentenced Sonko on Thursday to two years in prison and pay a fine of about 900 euros for the crime of "corruption of young people", which could prevent him from presenting his candidacy for the 2024 presidential elections. In February 2021, Sonko was denounced by Adji Sarr, a young employee of a massage parlor, who accused him of repeatedly raping her under death threats. However, the court acquitted the opposition leader of these crimes and sentenced him for sexually "corrupting" the young woman, a crime included in article 324 of the Penal Code and which consists of "attacking morality, executing, favoring or facilitating habitually the debauchery or corruption of young people under the age of 21.”
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Since the filing of the complaint, Sonko has assured that everything was a setup used by the powers to prevent him from running for the elections in February 2024. This is what his followers and thousands of Senegalese who took to the streets of the country believe. protest as soon as the verdict is known. Until this Thursday, the opposition leader continued to be held by the Police and incommunicado from abroad in his house in the Cité Keur Gorgui neighborhood, in the Senegalese capital.
The tension had been increasing since last Sunday, when the opposition leader was arrested by the forces of order and taken by force to his home. In an intervention recorded in his own house and which he managed to get abroad, Sonko assured that he was "kidnapped" and called on the population to take to the streets to protest. His lawyers and members of his party tried to visit him, but the agents prevented them from entering.
At the bottom of all this tension is the fact that President Macky Sall, in power since 2012, is considering running for a third term in the February 2024 elections, a possibility expressly prohibited in the Constitution. Sall would be empowered to run in the elections for having reformed the Magna Carta during his first term, as Alpha Condé in Guinea or Alassane Ouattara in the Ivory Coast did recently.
Ousmane Sonko, who was a union leader in his time as a Tax Administration official, made the leap into politics in the 2017 legislative elections, when he was elected deputy at the head of Pastef. His public action has since been characterized by his frontal denunciation of corruption, maintaining an anti-French and rupture discourse. In the 2019 presidential elections he came in third place with a creditable 15%, while in the 2022 legislative elections the coalition he led was about to wrest the absolute majority from Benno Bokk Yakar, the coalition in power, making him de facto the main opposition leader.
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