On Friday, one more person was killed in Senegal, when police and protestors clashed for the second day after the sentencing of opposition politician Ousmane Sonko prompted some of the bloodiest rioting in recent memory.
On Thursday, nine people were killed in skirmishes between police and Sonko supporters after he was sentenced to two years in prison on allegations of corrupting minors. The opposition claims that the ruling, which might ban Sonko from running for office next year, was politically motivated.
Protesters in face masks, some holding spades, set fire to tires and garbage as they clashed with police in various parts of the capital, Dakar.
Mobs have targeted supermarkets, stores, banks, police stations, and public transportation systems.
Similar scenes were reported in other parts of the country on Friday. Interior ministry spokesperson Maham Ka said another person was killed in the southern town of Cap Skirring, where protesters targeted a gendarmerie, bringing the death toll up to 10.
Riot police and soldiers deployed to reinforce security cracked down on the demonstrations with tear gas, which wafted through Dakar on Friday evening as loud bangs rang out in several neighbourhoods.
Ka told the state broadcaster the situation was now mainly under control and that the few remaining “incursions” were being handled.
“If demonstrations had remained peaceful … there would be no issue,” he said, describing the protests as “gratuitous violence” and congratulating security forces for their interventions.
Several social media and messaging platforms have been restricted to limit online communications.
Thursday and Friday’s riots were the latest bout in months of violence 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.
Sall has neither confirmed nor denied this.
The United Nations, the African Union and West Africa’s main regional bloc have condemned the violence. France urged restraint and dialogue to resolve the crisis.
Amnesty International has meanwhile called on the government to investigate Thursday’s deaths and avoid using force disproportionately.
Earlier on Friday, large groups of students were bussed out of Dakar’s main university campus, which was the epicentre of Thursday’s violence. Classes have been suspended indefinitely.
Sonko, 48, was accused of raping a woman who worked in a massage parlour in 2021, when she was 20, and making death threats against her.
A criminal court cleared Sonko of rape, but found him guilty of an offence described in the penal code as immoral behaviour towards individuals younger than 21. He denies wrongdoing.
Many, especially the young, strongly support him.
“Young people are motivated, they will not let this go,” said Cheikh Hann, a tailor. “The government cannot eliminate opponents.”