Senegal: Opponent Ousmane Sonko again placed in custody

His arrest provoked some of the most serious clashes in Senegal in years. At least one protester was killed on Thursday in the south of the country.

source: latimesblogs.latimes

Despite the violence that is shaking Senegal, the opponent Ousmane Sonko was again placed in police custody on Friday, March 5. He was arrested for disturbing public order while on his way to the court where he was summoned.

The opponent is the target of at least two proceedings. He was brought before a judge on Friday in the case of alleged rape. He emerged without being charged, but with a new appointment on Monday, his lawyers explained. He was then returned to police custody, this time in connection with a public order disturbance proceeding.

Mr. Sonko is the target of an "attempt to liquidate for the purpose of eliminating a political opponent," argued Mr. Abdoulaye Tall, one of his counsel. In early February, an employee of a beauty salon where the 46-year-old man was going to get a massage - to, he said, relieve his back pain - filed a complaint, accusing him of rape and death threats.

The man refutes these accusations, crying out for a conspiracy - allegedly hatched by President Macky Sall to keep him out of the next presidential election. Mr. Sall had denied the allegations and has remained silent ever since.

"Easing the situation"

The arrest of Mr. Sonko, who came third in the 2019 presidential election and was expected to be one of the main protagonists of the 2024 presidential election, triggered clashes between several youths and members of the police force.

Various ransackings and looting of stores took place in the capital as well as in various cities of the country, which is known as an island of stability in West Africa.

Fourteen Auchan supermarkets in Dakar were "attacked", including ten "looted", reported the group's management Friday. French schools in the country have closed. The agency of Air France in the center had for its part drawn the curtain.

The arrest not only angered Sonko's supporters, but also brought to a head the accumulated exasperation of many Senegalese people with the hardships of life for nearly a year (and the Covid-19 pandemic).

Demonstrations resulted in at least one death on Thursday in the south of the country, while several other deaths were reported without being formally confirmed.

The UN representative in West Africa on Friday called for "calm and restraint". Mohamed Ibn Chambas also urged the authorities to "take the necessary steps to calm the situation and ensure the constitutional right to demonstrate peacefully.

The Senegalese government warned that it would take "all necessary measures to maintain public order. A large police force was established around the courthouse in the Plateau district, the nerve center of power.

A few hundred meters away, the approaches to the presidency were cordoned off by barriers behind which armoured vehicles were positioned.

The defenders of the rights are moved by the response of the authorities.

The hashtag #FreeSenegal has gone viral. "The Senegalese authorities must immediately stop the arbitrary arrests of opponents and activists, respect freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, and shed light on the presence of men armed with clubs alongside the security forces," said Amnesty International.