21 septembre 2023

Senegal: violent clashes after the conviction of opponent Sonko, several deaths feared

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Following the sentencing of opposition politician Ousmane Sonko to two years in prison for "corruption of youth" and accusations of rape, Senegal was the scene of violence on Thursday June 1.

"We have noted with regret violence leading to destruction of public and private property, and unfortunately, nine deaths in Dakar and Ziguinchor," Interior Minister Antoine Félix Diome told national television on Thursday evening.

Two police officials, who preferred to remain anonymous, reported three deaths during the demonstrations in Ziguinchor (south), as well as the death of a policeman who was stoned to death by youths in the Dakar suburbs. No official statement has yet publicly confirmed these reports, according to French media such as 20 Minutes.

In the evening, many social networks and messaging platforms suffered severe access restrictions. Internet monitoring service Netblocks pointed out that this situation was reminiscent of that seen in 2021 during the deadly riots in Senegal, and reduced the public's ability to communicate.

The incidents follow Thursday's ruling by a Dakar criminal chamber concerning Ousmane Sonko, who was accused of rape and death threats. The court found him guilty of "corruption of youth", an act designed to encourage "debauchery" in a young person under the age of 21. However, he was acquitted of the charges of rape and death threats.

The complainant, Adji Sarr, a former employee of the beauty salon where Sonko used to go for massages, was a minor at the time of the events she denounced. On leaving court, she chose not to speak. Because of the threats and insults she has faced since the scandal broke, the young woman has been given police protection. Despite this, she firmly stands by her accusations.

"This verdict to order is the final stage in the plot hatched by Macky Sall and his henchmen," wrote Ousmane Sonko's party in a statement.