In the West African nation of Senegal, recent clashes between the police and supporters of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko have reportedly resulted in the deaths of at least 15 individuals. Among the deceased, two are members of the security forces, marking this as one of the most lethal protest actions the country has witnessed in the past few decades. This wave of unrest, seemingly unprecedented in its violence and reach, commenced last Thursday subsequent to a court verdict that sentenced Sonko to a two-year imprisonment term.
This eruption of social unrest follows a court ruling that found Ousmane Sonko guilty of “corrupting the youth.” However, it should be noted that the opposition leader was acquitted of accusations of sexually assaulting a female employee at a massage parlor and subsequently issuing threats against her life. Despite the sentence, no arrest warrant had been issued against Sonko as of the most recent updates, according to his legal representative.
Ever since the court’s decision, the capital city of Senegal has been the epicenter of a tumultuous wave of protests and violent clashes that have gripped the city in a state of civil unrest. Although the severity of the confrontations seemed to abate somewhat this Saturday, with a relative calm settling in compared to the previous days, altercations persisted into the evening. Protesters occupied residential areas, launching rocks at the police, setting up road barricades, and igniting tires in a display of their discontent.
In response, law enforcement units deployed tear gas to disperse the crowd in certain areas, leading to several arrests. As of yet, there have been no immediate reports of casualties from the ongoing Saturday confrontations. The current death toll stands at 15, which includes six individuals who tragically lost their lives during the preceding Friday’s events.
Interior Minister Felix Abdoulaye Diome provided a briefing on the situation late on Saturday, reporting that several regions of the city were littered with rubble and burned tires following an overnight looting spree that targeted gas stations and a supermarket. He condemned these actions as a deliberate attempt to disturb the regular functioning of the city’s economic activities and suggested that the choice of targets was strategic rather than arbitrary. However, he reassured the public and media representatives that the situation, despite its turbulence, was under control.
The government, in an effort to stem the tide of unrest, suspended access to several communication platforms, including Whatsapp, Messenger, and Telegram, on Friday. The move is believed to be an attempt to inhibit the ability of the protesters to communicate and coordinate their activities effectively.