Nine killed in clashes in Senegal after opposition leader sentenced to two years in prison

Nine people were killed in the clashes. (Photo: Getty Images)

Friday, Interior Minister Antoine Diome reported that nine people were killed in confrontations after Senegalese opposition leader Ousmane Sonko was sentenced to two years.

"We regret the violence that has resulted in the destruction of public and private property and the tragic loss of nine lives in Dakar and Ziguinchor," Diome stated on national television.

On Thursday, violence erupted in Dakar, the capital of Senegal, after a court sentenced Sonko to two years in prison for "corrupting youth," a decision that diminishes his chances of running for president next year.

A photographer for AFP witnessed groups of youth vandalizing municipal buses, a transportation ticket office, and other public property by torching tires and placing obstacles in the streets.

Stones and tear gas were hurled during the clashes between the youths and the security forces, which involved using force.

Images of unrest in other parts of the nation were disseminated on social networks.

Satire Mbaye, an official of the presidential party in the Dakar suburb of Keur Massar, reported that the headquarters had been "ransacked."

She stated, "They smashed the windows and destroyed the equipment inside." They inquired as to the location of the residence of Assome Diatta, the party's local leader.

According to local media, demonstrators shut down the highway leading to the airport and the commuter train connecting the new city of Diamniadio to the capital.

The violence occurred hours after a criminal court in Dakar ruled against President Macky Sall's fiercest opponent, Sonko.

The two-year-old case has polarized the West African state, resulting in sporadic but fatal clashes that have tarnished the country's reputation for stability.

Election effort

The focus has been on whether a conviction would prevent Sonko, the 48-year-old leader of the PASTEF-Patriots party, from running in the upcoming election.

The court found him guilty of "corrupting youth" and encouraging "debauchery" in someone younger than 21.

However, he was found not guilty of rape and death threats.

Adji Sarr, the complainant and a former salon employee where Sonko received massages, was under 21 at the time of the events.

The verdict prompted raucous demonstrations of disfavor in the heavily policed courtroom, although it was unclear whether they originated from the plaintiff or Sonko supporters.

Sarr exited the courtroom silently.

Since the scandal's discovery two years ago, she has been subject to threats, insults, and police protection.

In court, she stated that Sonko had abused her five times between late 2020 and early 2021.

The government denies Sonko's claim that the president manipulates the judiciary to sabotage his political career. Sonko maintains his innocence and claims the president manipulates the judiciary to destroy his political career.

The salon proprietor, Ndeye Khady Ndiaye, was sentenced to two years for inciting debauchery but acquitted of complicity in rape.

She and Sonko must each pay a fine of 600,000 CFA francs ($980) and pay the complainant 20 million CFA francs ($33,000) in damages.

"We are convinced of Sonko's guilt," Adji Sarr's attorney El Hadji Diouf told reporters.

However, he said 20 million FCFA in damages is insignificant compared to the "suffering" Sarr has endured.

According to the electoral code, the ruling appears to jeopardize the politician's eligibility to run for president next year.

One of his attorneys, Djiby Diagne, stated, "Ousmane Sonko's candidacy is in jeopardy."

The judge did not decide whether or not he should be apprehended.

"It is up to the public prosecutor to decide whether or not to arrest him," Diagne said.

Bamba Cisse, one of his counsels, stated, "Let all Senegalese know that Ousmane Sonko can no longer be a candidate."

divided nation

Sonko, a former civil servant, rose to prominence in the 2019 presidential elections, finishing third after a verbally aggressive campaign against Sall and the country's ruling elite.

Sonko portrays Sall as corrupt and a wannabe dictator, whereas the president's supporters call him a troublemaker who has seeded insecurity.

His rise to power and Sarr's testimony have captivated and divided this Muslim nation's public.

In 2021, his initial arrest on rape charges prompted several clashes in which at least 12 people were killed.

Sonko was absent during the verdict. He was presumed to be at his Dakar residence, where security forces had barricaded him after his weekend arrest.

Journalists, Sonko's attorneys, and supporters were prevented from accessing the residence by security forces, who threw tear gas at a group of reporters, including an AFP reporter.

A previous court case already obscured Sonko's eligibility to run for office.

This year, he was given a six-month suspended prison sentence for defaming a minister.

Publish : 2023-06-02 10:51:00

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