Senegal Clashes: 9 Killed, Social Media Platforms Banned, University Closed

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Nine people were killed during clashes in Senegal between police and supporters of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko. Sonko was convicted on Thursday for corrupting youth, but he was acquitted of charges related to rape and making death threats against a woman employed at a massage parlor.

On Thursday, June 1, 2023, a riot police officer fired tear gas at demonstrators during a protest on the campus of Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar, Senegal. (Photo: AP)

Clashes between police and supporters of Senegalese opposition leader Ousmane Sonko resulted in the death of nine individuals, as confirmed by the government on Friday. In response to the violence, authorities have implemented a widespread ban on various social media platforms.

Interior Minister Antoine Felix Abdoulaye Diome stated that the majority of fatalities occurred in the capital, Dakar, and the city of Ziguinchor, where Sonko serves as mayor. Social media sites such as Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter, which were allegedly used by demonstrators to incite violence, have been temporarily suspended.

The government has deployed military forces in certain areas of the city due to ongoing clashes between the police and Sonko’s supporters. Sonko, who was convicted of corrupting youth but acquitted of charges related to rape and death threats, was sentenced to two years in prison. As of now, no arrest warrant has been issued for him according to his lawyer.

Following his conviction, clashes erupted across Senegal as supporters of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko protested against what they perceive as a government attempt to hinder his candidacy in the upcoming 2024 presidential election.

Sonko, a popular figure among the youth, has demanded President Macky Sall publicly declare that he won’t seek a third term. The protests resulted in widespread violence, including rock-throwing, vehicle burnings, and the closure of the main university in Dakar.

Students were seen leaving the university carrying their belongings amidst the aftermath of burned-out cars. The clashes have disrupted normalcy and raised concerns about upcoming exams for many students.

On June 1, 2023, protesters outside Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar, Senegal, set a car on fire, resulting in it engulfed in flames. (Photo: EFE-EPA)

Security forces maintained a strong presence in the streets of Senegal, guarding supermarkets and shops in anticipation of further unrest following clashes. Ousmane Sonko’s house remained under tight security, with no access allowed to the premises.

Sonko’s PASTEF-Patriots party has called for street protests, though Sonko himself has not been heard from since the verdict. Rights groups have criticized the government’s response, citing arbitrary arrests and social media restrictions.

France expressed concern over the violence and urged a peaceful resolution in line with Senegal’s democratic values. Sonko’s conviction for corrupting young people could potentially prevent him from running in the upcoming election, although the government stated he could request a retrial while in custody.

The financial damage caused by months of demonstrations has been significant, according to government spokesperson Abdou Karim Fofana, who also criticized the anti-republican nature of the protest movements.

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Toshika Chauhan

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