Conflicts & War

9 dead in violent protests in Senegal after opposition leader’s sentence

Dakar, June 2 (EFE).- At least nine people died on Thursday in violent protests in Senegal after opposition leader, Ousmane Sonko, was sentenced to two years in prison for “corrupting youth,” the government said.

In a press conference early Friday in the Senegalese capital, Interior Minister Antoine Félix Diome said that nine people had died in Dakar and Ziguinchor as a result of the violence.

Public and private property had also been destroyed, he added.

Diome also expressed condolences to the victims’ families and support for those affected.

The minister said that the government had decided to temporarily suspend certain digital applications after the circulation of hate messages on social media.

The government has taken all measures to ensure people’s safety, the minister added, while urging peace and calm.

Hundreds of young people took to the streets of several cities in Senegal following Sonko’s conviction on Thursday.

News of the verdict and two-year prison sentence led to protests in Dakar and other major cities such as Ziguinchor (Sonko’s hometown), Bignona, Saint-Louis, Louga, Kaolack and Mbour.

Protesters erected barricades, set fire to police cars and other vehicles, and attacked businesses – including gas stations – and public buildings.

Police responded with tear gas.

A court in Dakar sentenced Sonko to two years in prison on Thursday for “corrupting youth.”

Sonko, 48, was accused of raping a woman who worked in a massage parlor, Adji Sarr, in 2021 and making death threats against her.

Though the court acquitted him on those charges, they found him guilty of immoral behavior toward an individual under the age of 21.

Proclaiming his innocence, Sonko boycotted the trial and dismissed the accusations as politically motivated.

The conviction makes him ineligible to run in the presidential elections scheduled for February 2024, according to the country’s electoral code.

In a statement, Sonko’s party, Patriots of Senegal for Ethics, Work and Fraternity (PASTEF), described the court verdict as the “final stage” of a conspiracy launched by current President Macky Sall with the aim of sidelining Senegal’s most prominent opposition politician.

PASTEF urged the Senegalese police and military to side with the people.

Security forces surrounded Sonko’s home in the capital on Sunday and the justice minister said that he can be arrested “at any time.”

On May 8, the opposition leader was handed a six-month suspended prison sentence for defaming a Senegalese minister after accusing him of corruption.

Sonko has denounced an “instrumentalization” of justice by Macky Sall, who has led the country since 2012, in order to prevent him from contesting the 2024 elections.

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