After two days of violence following the arrest of Ousmane Sonko, the Senegalese authorities are preparing for new tensions. Accused of rape, Sonko shouts conspiracy and assures us that President Macky Sall wants to block his path.
This March 5, the Senegalese presidency and the official buildings in the center of Dakar are placed under high protection after two days of unrest and at the dawn of a day of protest against the arrest of Ousmane Sonko, the main opponent in power .
Several districts of the capital and cities of a country considered to be the most stable in West Africa have been the scene of looting and looting of shops and clashes between young people and the police, since March 3.
The incidents continued in the suburbs of Dakar and a protest call was launched for March 5, the day Ousmane Sonko is supposed to be brought before a judge. His arrest on March 3 on his way to court where he was going to be questioned on charges of rape that he refutes, angered his supporters.
Much violence and one death among pro-Sonko protesters
It was uncertain where Ousmane Sonko was on the morning of March 5. One of his closest collaborators, Djibril Guèye Ndiaye, affirming on the radio that he was no longer in the gendarmerie when he was made to bring breakfast.
The arrest of the man who came third in the 2019 presidential election – and expected to be one of Macky Sall’s main competitors in the 2024 election – is also, according to many Senegalese, emblematic of the exasperation accumulated in this poor country in the face of the harshness of life for a year and the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The protests left at least one dead on March 4 in the south of the country. The death of a teenager (according to social networks) was also reported by a local elected official in Yeumbeul, on the outskirts of Dakar, but has not been officially confirmed.
On the evening of March 4, demonstrators attacked the offices of the government daily The sun and RFM radio, belonging to the singer and former minister Youssou Ndour’s private press group, two institutions deemed close to power.
Witnesses reported that individuals attacked motorists in the middle of the night using the highway through the suburbs of Dakar.
The day of March 5 promises to be high risk. In addition to a call to demonstrate throughout the country, Ousmane Sonko must be brought by the gendarmes at an unspecified time before a judge charged with investigating the alleged rapes of which he is accused.
Ousmane Sonko was officially arrested for disturbing public order as he went in procession to court to be questioned. One of his lawyers, Bamba Cissé, said he feared his client would be imprisoned after his hearing. A decision likely to redouble the anger of the supporters of Ousmane Sonko.
A large police force has been set up around the courthouse in the Dakar-Plateau district, the nerve center of power. A few hundred meters away, the outskirts of the presidency were cordoned off by barriers behind which tanks were positioned. The National Assembly is also under surveillance, according to AFP.
The government ready to take “all the necessary measures to maintain public order”
Ousmane Sonko, 46, has been the subject since early February of a complaint for rape and death threats by an employee of a beauty salon where he was going to be massaged for, he says, “to relieve pain back”.
The deputy with the “anti-system” profile and impetuous speech, however, refutes these accusations. He denounces a plot hatched, according to him, by President Macky Sall to remove him from the next presidential election. He denied this idea of a conspiracy but has since remained silent on the matter.
The government for its part “strongly condemned the acts of violence, looting and destruction” on the evening of March 4, and warned that it would take “all the necessary measures to maintain public order”. He also warned “certain media” against the consequences of their “biased” coverage.
At the same time, the authorities announced to suspend the signal of two private television channels guilty according to the power in place of having broadcast “in loop” images of violence. Social networks have also reported disruptions on the internet.
The NGO Amnesty International expressed the situation in these terms in a statement: “The Senegalese authorities must immediately stop the arbitrary arrests of opponents and activists, respect the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, and shed light on the presence of men armed with clubs alongside the security forces. ”
Calls to “liberate Senegal” on Twitter
On Twitter, the keyword #FreeSenegal (“Free Senegal”) rose on the morning of March 5 among the most popular trends, especially in France. Several political figures have indeed taken a stand on the issue.
The anti-colonialist activist Kemi Seba, for example, commented on the events by posting on Twitter that “what the African elites do not do for the people, the people will do it themselves”, accompanying his remarks with the keywords #FreeAfrica and #FreeSenegal (“free Africa” and “free Senegal”)
“The Senegalese people before and above all,” said rapper Youssoupha.
Activist and columnist Rokhaya Diallo encouraged her subscribers to support the hashtag #FreeSenegal, while denouncing “serious attacks on democracy in Senegal” as well as “freedom of expression and [les] brutally restricted means of communication ”.