One dead, media suspended and urban violence… On his way to court, the arrest of Ousmane Sonko has caused serious clashes in Senegal for the first time in years. In support of resolving the situation in the country, the hashtag #FreeSenegal was launched on Twitter.
A young man was killed on 4 March in southern Senegal during demonstrations against the arrest of Ousmane Sonko, a leading opposition figure, a gendarmerie official said. This is the first confirmed death during protests in support of Mr Sonko.
“There is one death among the demonstrators in Bignona,” in Casamance (South), a gendarmerie commander told AFP on condition of anonymity, without specifying the cause. According to him, four gendarmes were also injured in the clashes.
Stone-throwing and tear-gas shots
The arrest of Mr Sonko, third in the 2019 presidential election and expected to be one of the main candidates for the 2024 presidential election, has caused some of Dakar’s biggest clashes in years.
On 3 March, groups of young people and the police exchanged stones and tear gas. On 4 March, on the campus of Cheikh Anta Diop University, dozens of students threw cinderblock pieces at the police deployed around the campus in the late afternoon, according to AFP journalists. The police responded with tear gas and stun grenades and throwing stones back.
Troubles have also been reported in other towns, including Casamance. Mr Sonko enjoys strong support in this region where his father is from and has spent part of his life.
Thursday evening, demonstrators attacked the government’s premises, daily Le Soleil, and radio RFM, belonging to the private press group of singer and former minister Youssou Ndour, two institutions deemed close to power. The hashtag #FreeSenegal has become one of the most cited on Twitter.
After the National Audiovisual Regulatory Council warned against the dissemination of content “explicitly or implicitly defending violence”, inciting disturbances to public order, or “of a nature to constitute a threat to national stability or social cohesion”, he announced to suspend media for 72 hours from Thursday at 5 pm (GMT and local) the signal of two private televisions, Sen TV and Walf TV.
Opponent in custody
Mr Sonko, 46, was to be heard on charges of rape and death threats made against him by an employee of a beauty salon where he was going to get a massage to relieve his back pain, he said. The deputy refutes the accusations, unveiled in early February in the press.
As AFP indicates, he shouts at the plot hatched by President Macky Sall to remove him from the next presidential election.
On 3 March, he was officially taken into custody for disturbing public order he allegedly caused by going to court in a procession and refusing to follow the authorities’ route. Ousmane Sonko’s lawyers told AFP that the MP was again expected in court on Friday.