At least 15 people including two security officers have been killed as a result of the conflicts between Senegalese police and protesters in support of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, reports NPR.
The confrontation began on Thursday, June 1, 2023, in the city of Dakar following Sonko’s conviction of corrupting the youth. At the same trial, he was acquitted on charges of raping a woman who worked at a massage parlor and threatening to kill her.
Sonko’a supporters claim that his legal troubles are part of a government ploy to ruin his chances to run for president in 2024 as he is considered to be the biggest challenger to President Macky Sall’s bid for reelection.
According to Senegalese law, Sonko's conviction would not allow him to run in the next year’s election. If he is sent to prison, Sonko could request a retrial.
On Saturday, June 3, the conflicts continued in residential neighborhoods with protesters blocking off roads and tossing rocks at police officers. In response to the uprising, Senegalese military personnel patrolled the streets as demonstrators were tear-gassed and detained.
Seynabou Diop said that her 21-year-old son, Khadim, was killed in the protests after being shot in the chest.
"I feel deep pain. What's happening is hard. Our children are dying. I never thought I'd have to go through this," she said.
Diop also shared that she believes that Sall has orchestrated the attacks that have claimed the lives of so many.
"I think Macky Sall is responsible. If he'd talked to the Senegalese people, especially young people, maybe we wouldn't have all these problems," Diop said.
Senegal's government has been called upon by numerous countries to end the conflict.
Catherine Colonna, France's minister for Europe and foreign affairs said they were "extremely concerned by the violence" and hoped for a resolution to protect Senegal’s long-tradition of democracy.
In a statement, the U.S. State Department denounced the violence taking place in Senegal.
“As a strong friend and partner to Senegal, the United States is troubled and saddened by the violence and damage we have witnessed in many parts of the country. We offer our deep condolences to the families and friends of those who have died, and we wish a fast and full recovery to those injured,” departmental spokesperson Matthew Miller said.
"Senegal's strong record of democratic governance, rule of law, and peaceful coexistence is something for which the Senegalese people can be rightfully proud. We urge all parties to voice their views in a peaceful manner," the statement continued.
Abdou Karim Fofana, a Senegalese government spokesperson estimated that the destruction caused by the demonstrations will cost millions of dollars.
“These calls (to protest), it's a bit like the anti-republican nature of all these movements that hide behind social networks and don't believe in the foundations of democracy, which are elections, freedom of expression, but also the resources that our (legal) system offers," Fofana said.