Opposition demonstrations spark clashes in Senegal

Main opposition force calls on its activists to hold series of nationwide demonstrations

Aurore Bonny  | 30.03.2023 - Update : 30.03.2023
Opposition demonstrations spark clashes in Senegal

DOUALA, Cameroon 

Opposition activists in Senegal staged demonstrations Wednesday in several cities in support of an opponent and to denounce recent arrests, local media reported.  

Mame Mbaye Niang, Minister of Tourism and an activist of the main political party in power, has filed a defamation lawsuit against Ousmane Sonko, the leader of the African Patriots of Senegal for Work, Ethics and Fraternity (Pastef) party, who came third in the 2019 presidential election.

On the sidelines of the trial, which is being held Thursday, the Yewwi Askan Wi (YAW) coalition, the main opposition force created by Sonko in this West African country, called on its activists to hold a series of demonstrations throughout the country on March 29 and 30 and April 3. 

In a statement issued Wednesday, it invited the population to come out "massively" and to stick to the upcoming demonstrations despite a ban issued by the prefecture in Dakar, the capital. 

"The forces of order prevented the leaders of the Yewwi Askan Wi coalition from holding a press briefing at the PRP headquarters of Dethie Fall, one of the leaders of this formation. Opposition leaders were shot at with tear gas. During the stampede, a Web Witness camerawoman was hit by a vehicle and taken to the hospital," reported Seneweb, a local online media outlet. 

The local press also reported peaceful demonstrations in Ziguinchor and Kolda in the south, Saint Louis in the north and Mbour. 

Pastef activists in Sedhiou "denounced the 'injustices' they say their political leader, Ousmane Sonko, is suffering," the Senegalese Press Agency (APS) reported. 

They believe that the defamation suit filed against him by Niang is aimed at preventing him from running in the 2024 presidential election, according to APS. 

Violent demonstrations also took place on March 16 during the libel trial between Sonko and Niang. 

Three deaths were recorded and more than 400 people were arrested, according to the coalition.

El Malick Ndiaye, Yaw's vice president for communications, was released after prolonged police custody. Nevertheless, he considers himself a "political prisoner of Macky Sall," the Senegalese head of state, because he is wearing an electronic bracelet.

Following these demonstrations, Sonko denounced "yet another assassination attempt" and reported that he was suffering from physical discomfort, lower abdominal pain and breathing difficulties. He accused the Senegalese president. He said he felt unwell because of tear gas fired by the police during his forced transfer to the court in Dakar as part of his trial against the minister.

Other charges and trials are weighing on Sonko, who is used to the courts. He will be tried before a criminal court for his indictment in March 2021 for rape and death threats against an employee of a beauty salon in Dakar where he was getting a massage for a backache.

This opponent "threatens so many interests. The authorities fear him and he would not make gifts to outside interests. He is part of a generation of African opposition leaders like Success Masra of Chad who are totally uninhibited and assume to go to the end of their convictions," said Regis Hounkpe, a pan-African geopolitical expert in a phone call with Anadolu.​​​​​​​

This situation "will become even tenser" according to him.

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