Police and protesters clashed in Senegal’s capital Dakar yesterday as unrest picked up again one day after a jail sentence for opposition politician Ousmane Sonko sparked some of the deadliest violence in the country in recent memory.
Nine people were killed in clashes between police and Sonko supporters on Thursday after he was sentenced to two years for corrupting youth. The opposition says the verdict, which could prevent Sonko from running in elections next year, was politically motivated.
Violence broke out again in Dakar’s outskirts yesterday afternoon as police fired tear gas to disperse protesters burning tyres on a main road. They threw rocks back before running away.
Similar scenes were reported in other parts of the city.
Soldiers and riot police patrolled streets yesterday as the army was deployed to reinforce security. There was a particularly heavy presence around banks and French-owned supermarkets and petrol stations, which Sonko supporters often target.
Thursday’s riots were the latest bout in months of protests in Senegal, long considered one of West Africa’s strongest democracies, sparked by Sonko’s court case as well as concerns that President Macky Sall will try to bypass a two-term limit and run again in February elections.
Several social media and messaging platforms were still restricted yesterday as the government sought to limit online communications.
But a call for more protests after afternoon prayers still circulated on social media, which many are accessing through virtual private networks.
Sonko’s PASTEF party called on citizens to “amplify and intensify the resistance.”
The United Nations, the African Union and West Africa’s main regional bloc have condemned the unrest. France urged restraint and dialogue to resolve the crisis, saying it was extremely preoccupied by the violence.
Amnesty International has called on the government to investigate Thursday’s deaths and avoid using force disproportionately.
Earlier yesterday, large groups of students were bussed out of Dakar’s main university campus.
Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar was the epicentre of Thursday’s violence, with protesters setting buses, buildings and archives alight and throwing rocks at riot police, who responded by firing tear gas.