Violence erupted Thursday in Dakar and Senegal after opponent Ousmane Sonko, accused of rape, was sentenced to two years in prison for “youth corruption”, a sentence that further compromises his candidacy for the 2024 presidential election. .
Two police officers reported, to AFP and on condition of anonymity, three deaths in demonstrations in Ziguinchor (south) and a police officer killed with stones by young people in the suburbs of Dakar. No official has publicly confirmed this information.
In the evening, several social networks and messaging platforms, including WhatsApp, suffered serious access restrictions. “This situation resembles that observed in 2021” when Senegal was plagued by deadly riots and “probably considerably limits the ability of the public to communicate”, indicated the Internet monitoring service Netblocks in a message to the AFP.
Sonko “sequestered” at home
Such restrictions are now commonly enforced by authorities around the world in times of tension. Ousmane Sonko, the fiercest opponent of President Macky Sall, was absent at the delivery of the judgment, as during his trial. He is presumed blocked by the security forces at his home in the capital, “kidnapped” according to him.
But, after two years of a confrontation with the authorities which kept the country in suspense, he can now be arrested “at any time”, Justice Minister Ismaïla Madior Fall told journalists.
Without waiting for such an arrest, the dreaded troubles before the deliberation broke out in Dakar and in several cities. The University of Dakar has taken on the air of a battlefield. Groups of young people confronted with stones the police retaliating with tear gas. Several buses from the Faculty of Medicine, the Department of History and the country’s main school of journalism were set on fire and offices ransacked.
Groups of young people attacked public property at several points in the capital, burned tires and placed obstacles in the streets, noted an AFP photographer. Apart from these hotbeds of violence, the streets of Dakar have been deserted. Disturbances have been reported elsewhere in the country, in Casamance (south), Mbour and Kaolack (west) or Saint-Louis (north).
They follow the deliberation rendered Thursday by a criminal chamber in Dakar against Ousmane Sonko, accused of rape and death threats. The court sentenced him for “youth corruption”, which consists of promoting the “debauchery” of a young person under the age of 21. On the other hand, she acquitted him of the charges of rape and death threats.
The complainant, Adji Sarr, a former employee of the beauty salon where Sonko was going to have a massage, was under 21 at the time of the events she denounces. She left the court without speaking. Threatened and insulted since the scandal broke, and placed under police protection, she has always persisted in her accusations.
The opponent has continued to deny the charges, shouting at the machination of power to remove him from the presidential election. “This verdict on command is the final stage of the plot hatched by Macky Sall and his henchmen”, reacted in a press release the party of Sonko, Pastef, who called on the Senegalese to “take to the streets” and the forces of l order to join them.
The stakes are as much criminal as political. The decision appears in view of the electoral code to lead to the ineligibility of Mr. Sonko. The eligibility of Sonko, 48, is already compromised by a recent six-month suspended prison sentence for defamation against a minister. “Let all Senegalese know it: Ousmane Sonko can no longer be a candidate,” said one of his advisers, Me Bamba Cissé.
Since February 2021, when the case of alleged rapes hit the headlines, Sonko has been engaged in a standoff with power for his judicial and political survival. About 20 civilians have been killed since 2021 in unrest largely linked to his situation. Both sides blame each other.