The flames are not extinguished in Senegal. violence continues that erupted in the streets of its main cities after the court ruling on June 1, where the opposition leader, Ousmane Sonko, was sentenced to two years in prison for “corrupting the youth” and threatening to kill a masseuse. In the last three days, up to 19 people have died in clashes with the police and 357 have been injured.
The vision of Dakar is bleak: thick columns of black smoke engulf the sunny city and its famous university today resembles a battlefield. The young people who demand the release of Sonko and the resignation of Macky Sall as president of the government speak of a historic moment, while the United Nations and the African Union have made separate calls for the return of social peace, until now unsuccessful. Faced with the maelstrom that is coming upon him, Sall has ordered the deployment of the army to maintain control of key areas of Dakar, Ziguinchor and Cap-Skirring. Besides, It has suppressed the internet for mobile telephony and has vetoed the use of certain social networks to prevent riots, although these measures have been seen as a form of censorship or authoritarianism that has only made the angry even more angry.
With each passing day, the protesters find new reasons for their cause. Images of Senegalese gendarmes using civilians, and even children, as human shields spread like wildfire. Cases of police violence come to light where the security forces beat the detainees with their butts. Ousmane Sonko’s party, PASTEF, issues daily communiqués calling for a popular uprising and the positioning of the Armed Forces in favor of the protesters. In this Sunday’s statement, PASTEF condemned the use of children as human shields and denounced the use of “private militias” by the Government to confront the protesters. Accuse Macky Sall of “high treason” against the Senegalese homeland and also of organizing “an evil plan to attack religious centers and indict the protesters.”
The leaders are silent
The Senegalese Minister of the Interior, Antoine Diome, announced in return that 500 arrests had been made in recent days, at the same time that he denounced that “hidden powers” are behind some riots that he considers “an attack against Senegal”. Both he and other members of the government have strongly criticized the looting recorded during the wave of protests. Whether they were banks, a branch of Alcampo in Dakar or the national Orange telephone headquarters.
Apart from Sonko’s conviction and the episodes of police violence that have occurred in recent days, there is another reason behind the riots. Although it is not yet official, it has been suspected for months that Macky Sall intends to run for the third consecutive time in the elections presidential elections that will take place in 2024, something that the Senegalese Constitution expressly prohibits by establishing a maximum of two legislatures for each president. Macky Sall has yet to confirm his decision, just as he has not addressed the nation since the protests began or written any comments on Twitter. Both he and Sonko have chosen to let their minions speak for themselves.
Alioune Tine, Secretary General and founding member of the African Assembly for the Defense of Human Rights, urged Macky Sall to urgently address the nation, further encouraging him to “use his authority and leadership to show mercy by releasing all detainees politicians”. However, the Senegalese president finds himself in a difficult crossroads in this regard: should he acquit Sonko to achieve social peace, even at the risk of interfering with the judiciary, or should he wait (and pray) for the protests to subside on their own?