Senegal: decrease in clashes in Dakar, the government announces 500 arrests

Tension is falling slightly in Senegal, where deadly clashes have left 15 dead since Thursday and the two-year prison sentence for opponent Ousmane Sonko

Senegal: decrease in clashes in Dakar, the government announces 500 arrests

Tension is falling slightly in Senegal, where deadly clashes have left 15 dead since Thursday and the two-year prison sentence for opponent Ousmane Sonko.

Clashes were reported on Saturday in the suburbs of Dakar. But several neighborhoods that had experienced bouts of violence Thursday and Friday in the capital remained calm, the Minister of the Interior stressing "a drop in intensity" of the demonstrations.

Antoine Diome indicated that "about 500 arrests" have been carried out since the start of the protest movement. Some of them belong to political parties but the majority have no party affiliation, he said.

He also claimed that Senegal had been attacked by "occult forces". "There is foreign influence and it is the country that is under attack," he said. “Vital installations for the functioning of the country” were targeted to cause “chaos”, he continued, citing in particular a water production plant.

"We will not give in to these groups or these foreigners who have come to plunder our country," Tourism Minister Mame Mbaye Niang said earlier in the day.

Security forces remain omnipresent in the capital. The army deployed, as the day before, around strategic points.

Since Thursday, many public and private properties have been ransacked and looted, including banks and Auchan stores in the suburbs of Dakar. Some streets bear the scars of the violent clashes that have taken place over the past two days, with charred cars, burnt tires and large stones strewn on the roads.

The United States said on Saturday it was "concerned and saddened" by the violence and called for a return to calm.

On Friday, the international community, representatives of associations and football stars like star striker Sadio Mané called for restraint and an end to the violence in this country, considered to be a rare island of stability in West Africa. .

Several social networks, such as Facebook, WhatsApp or Twitter, were still cut on Saturday evening, a government measure to stop, according to him, "the dissemination of hateful and subversive messages".

The Senegalese hold their breath in fear of an arrest of the opponent Ousmane Sonko, declared presidential candidate of 2024, and sentenced Thursday to two years in prison for having pushed to "debauchery" a young woman under 21 years old.

This decision makes him ineligible for the time being. Mr. Sonko has been shouting since the beginning of the affair at a plot by President Macky Sall to eliminate him politically.

He says he is "sequestered" in his Dakar residence by security forces who prevent anyone from approaching.

Mr. Sonko can now be arrested "at any time", said Justice Minister Ismaïla Madior Fall.

His party, the Pastef, called "to amplify and intensify the resistance (...) until the departure of President Macky Sall", of which he accused the regime "of bloody and dictatorial excesses", Friday in a press release.

For the government, the events since Thursday are not "a popular demonstration with political demands", but rather "acts of vandalism and banditry".

"I'm really scared because we don't know how it's all going to end. But it was very predictable, and maybe we had to go through it for things to move, for politicians to stop make fun of the people," Fatou Ba, a 46-year-old shopkeeper in Dakar's working-class Dalifort district, told AFP.

"If they want peace (the authorities), they won't go looking for Sonko," she hopes.

"No one is safe in this country right now. If the protests continue, life will be even more difficult," said Matar Thione, a 32-year-old motorcycle driver.

In this district, the few service stations open are stormed for fear of a shortage of gasoline. Many Dakar residents stocked up on Saturday in open stores for fear that the climate of violence would continue.

06/04/2023 01:55:22 -         Dakar (AFP) -         © 2023 AFP