Senegal Roiled by Protests: Nine Dead Following Opposition Leader Ousmane Sonko Conviction

Senegal Roiled by Protests: Nine Dead Following Opposition Leader Ousmane Sonko Conviction

In the African nation of Senegal, a deeply controversial court ruling over Ousmane Sonko has sparked violent protests resulting in the deaths of nine individuals, according to reports from early Friday. This upheaval follows the sentencing of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, whose popularity among young voters has made him a formidable force in Senegalese politics. Sonko has been acquitted of rape charges but was found guilty of a lesser-known offense, “corrupting youth.”

Interior Minister Antoine Felix Abdoulaye Diome confirmed the tragic toll of the protests during a televised statement, stating that the deaths occurred in both Dakar, the capital, and Ziguinchor. This news comes in the wake of the court’s announcement of Sonko’s sentencing on Thursday, a decision that has sent ripples through the country’s political landscape.

Ousmane Sonko, once a presidential candidate, was handed a two-year prison sentence for the ambiguous crime of “corrupting youth,” yet he was absolved of the more serious rape allegations. Throughout the trial proceedings, which Sonko chose to boycott, the opposition leader maintained that the charges were a politically motivated strategy designed to prevent him from running in next year’s presidential elections. Despite his boycott, police forcibly escorted Sonko back to Dakar in preparation for the announcement of the verdict.

The court’s decision has resulted in explosive reactions from Sonko’s supporters, who took to the streets in protest. There have been reports of protesters hurling stones at riot police and even setting buses ablaze. The political party that Sonko is associated with, PASTEF, has also fueled the protests by claiming that the court’s verdict is part of a wider political conspiracy. PASTEF has subsequently issued a statement urging citizens to cease all activities and take to the streets to voice their disapproval of the decision.

The severity of the protests is visible in Dakar, where plumes of thick black smoke have been observed rising from the central university campus. Protesters have been setting multiple buses on fire and engaging in clashes with riot police, who have responded with tear gas to disperse the crowds.

Although there were signs of continued unrest throughout the night, government spokesperson Abdou Karim Fofana assured the public that security forces were maintaining control in the capital city.

Like Sonko himself, his supporters argue that the charges against him are politically motivated, an accusation that has been categorically denied by the authorities. This turbulent moment in Senegalese politics leaves many questioning the integrity of the nation’s judicial system and the future of political dissent within the country.

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