Senegal: two dead in pre-election tensions, opponent Sonko challenges power

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Clashes left two dead on Friday in Dakar, between young people and police, in a context of pre-election tensions. Three opposition figures were arrested, including Ousman Sonko, the main opponent of power, who remains camped on a confrontation line vis-à-vis President Macky Sall, ordering him to release the arrested opposition members.

Clashes between young people and police left two dead on Friday, June 17 in Dakar and in southern Senegal, where the verbal escalation of recent weeks between power and opposition has turned into the dreaded confrontation a month and a half before the legislative elections.

Three opposition figures were arrested, Pastef party spokesman Ousseynou Ly said. Opposition leader Ousman Sonko and Dakar mayor Barthélémy Dias, another ardent critic of President Macky Sall, were prevented from leaving their homes by security forces, he said.

Saturday, Ousman Sonko, the main opponent remained camped on a line of confrontation with power. He called on the Senegalese president to release the arrested opposition members, failing which their supporters will come “to seek these political hostages, cost what it will cost”, he said on Facebook.

At the same time, the Senegalese were divided on responsibility for the events of the previous day and on the means of stopping the spiral in a country often considered as an island of stability in West Africa, even if it has not no stranger to political violence in the past. Different voices have been raised to reproach the power for its intransigence.

On Friday, different districts of the capital were the scene of clashes between young people throwing stones and police keeping them at a distance with tear gas or dispersing them with stun grenades in the smoke of burning tires. In Casamance (south), the opposition accused the security forces of firing live ammunition.

In Dakar, a young man (or a young woman), according to the sources, perished when a projectile set fire to a room where he (or she) was, said an official of the Red Cross under cover of ‘anonymity. The press and the opposition reported a second death in Bignona, Casamance.

Many Senegalese feared this rise in tensions since the authorities had banned the opposition on Wednesday from demonstrating this Friday afternoon. The opposition intended to protest against the invalidation of a national list of candidates for the legislative elections of July 31. She had warned that she would override the ban.

Protesters turned away

Platoons of police in riot gear, backed by armored vehicles, prevented anyone from approaching Place de la Nation where the rally was to take place, away from the political and economic center of the capital.

The police drove small mobile groups back to the adjacent streets, harassing them with stones.

Unrest was reported in other parts of the capital, as well as in Ziguinchor, Casamance.

In the morning, the police laid siege to Ousman Sonko’s home in the well-to-do Dakar district of Mermoz, determined to prevent him from carrying out his declared intention to defy the ban on demonstrations.

At midday, they prevented him from going to the great weekly prayer.

“Even our freedom of worship is violated today,” said Ousman Sonko calmly, dressed in the traditional prayer boubou, after coming up against a barrage of police.

Call for dialogue

The power gives in to “panic”, assured the opponent, third in the presidential election of 2019, declared candidate for that of 2024, and popular among young people.

Three opposition figures, Déthié Fall, Ahmet Aidara and Mame Diarra Fame, have been arrested, said the spokesman for Ousman Sonko’s party.

AFP was unable to obtain confirmation of these arrests as well as the two deaths from the authorities.

The opposition denounces the invalidation of the national list of the Yewwi Askan Wi coalition, led by Ousman Sonko’s party, as a ploy by President Macky Sall to ward off his opponents. The invalidation excludes Ousman Sonko and certain opposition figures from the legislative elections.

The power and the opposition have given no sign of wanting to compromise and analysts generally describe a political stalemate.

Many voices have been raised to call for dialogue in the face of the risk of violence similar to the riots which, in March 2021, left a dozen people dead in the country.

With AFP

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