Senegal: 16 Lives Lost in Clashes, Opposition Criticized Police Brutality

At least 16 people were killed and over 350 demonstrators injured in clashes following the recent court conviction of Senegal’s opposition leader, Ousmane Sonko. Supporters of Sonko strongly condemned the acts of police brutality during the violence that erupted after he received a two-year prison sentence, which he believes was politically motivated to prevent his presidential candidacy next year. The Red Cross reported assisting 357 injured demonstrators, including a pregnant woman, as well as 36 members of the defense and security forces who were hurt during the unrest. A total of 78 seriously wounded individuals were taken to health centers. Both Sonko’s supporters and President Macky Sall’s supporters have exchanged accusations regarding the violence and fatalities. Sonko’s political party, PASTEF-Patriots, denounced the “lethal repression by defense and security forces,” accusing the government of deploying “private militias” and urging people to defend themselves and fight back. While the official death toll stands at 16, PASTEF-Patriots claimed that 19 demonstrators had been killed. The government, on the other hand, accused Sonko’s supporters of engaging in “vandalism and banditry.” In response to the situation, the government implemented social media restrictions and temporarily cut mobile data internet access, citing the sharing of “hateful and subversive messages.” The situation appeared to be calming down on Sunday, with fewer police officers on the streets and relative peace in several previously affected areas of Dakar. The interior ministry noted a decrease in tension and arrests. The Interior Minister stated that approximately 500 individuals had been arrested since Thursday and suggested the involvement of foreign influence in what he referred to as an “attack” against Senegal. Sonko, a 48-year-old former tax inspector and prominent critic of various social and economic issues in Senegal, was convicted of morally “corrupting” a young woman, a lesser charge than the initial rape allegation. The conviction potentially disqualifies him from running in the 2024 elections. Sonko, who was tried in absentia, has yet to be taken into custody for his prison term, which is expected to further escalate tensions. He is currently confined to his Dakar residence, where he has been under security forces’ control since the previous weekend, and has accused them of holding him unlawfully. The ongoing legal troubles of Sonko have triggered uncommon outbreaks of violence in Senegal, a country known for its stability in West Africa, with foreign allies calling for a return to calm.

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