Times of Middle East

Pressure mounts on president as Senegal braces for contemporary protests

Senegalese President Macky Sall is dealing with rising stress to handle this week’s lethal unrest and have interaction in dialogue because the nation braces for extra protests.

At least 5 individuals, together with a schoolboy, have been killed in days of clashes that erupted after the arrest of opposition chief Ousmane Sonko on Wednesday, in what’s the nation’s worst political violence in years.

People torched vehicles, looted outlets and hurled stones at police in the course of the protests, which have highlighted longstanding grievances over living requirements and financial exclusion.

The unrest has alarmed the United Nations and Senegal’s neighbours, which have appealed for all sides to indicate restraint.

Sall has but to publicly tackle the state of affairs, nevertheless.

On Sunday, Senegal’s authorities ombudsman Alioune Badara Cisse urged Sall to talk out forward of a deliberate new spherical of opposition demonstrations from Monday.

“Senegalese people want to hear you,” Cisse informed a information convention within the capital, Dakar. “Why the devil wouldn’t you talk to them?”

“Do it before it’s too late,” added Cisse, who previously served as a international minister below Sall however whose position as ombudsman is to mediate between authorities establishments and to safeguard human rights.

Sonko, 46, a fierce critic of the governing elite in Senegal, was arrested on Wednesday on fees of disturbing public order. Scuffles between opposition supporters and safety forces had damaged out whereas Sonko was on his strategy to court docket in Dakar to reply on a separate rape cost – which he says is politically motivated.

On Saturday, the opposition collective which incorporates Sonko’s Pastef social gathering known as for 3 extra days of protests beginning Monday, urging individuals to “massively descend onto the streets”.

Tension was already anticipated to be excessive in Dakar on Monday, the place Sonko is due in court docket to reply questions concerning the rape cost, and the federal government has ordered colleges closed for per week.

Clashes first broke out after the arrest of Sonko and escalated into nationwide protests which solely abated on Saturday.

Large queues shaped for petrol and groceries on Sunday, throughout what is anticipated to be a quick respite within the unrest.

A schoolboy was killed when an illustration on Saturday within the southern city of Diaobe turned violent, including to 4 reported useless by the authorities on Friday.

The training ministry mentioned on Sunday colleges in Senegal will shut till March 15. Many outlets, petrol stations and banks have been closed for days this week.

The influential League of Imams and Preachers of Senegal, in the meantime, on Sunday known as for the discharge of Sonko and a “return to calm”.

The financial devastation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and a nightly curfew to comprise its unfold has solely stoked frustrations within the nation the place most individuals work within the casual sector. Senegal is commonly heralded as a haven of calm in West Africa, however about 40 p.c of the inhabitants reside under the poverty line.

“We have to stop having a two-speed Senegal,” mentioned Cisse, including that it was inevitable “the lid would pop off” finally.

Ndeme Dieng, an opposition member who tried to calm tempers in the course of the demonstrations, mentioned the overwhelming majority of protesters have been jobless youths.

“The gloomy economic situation has made people go out into the streets and show that they’re fed up,” he mentioned.

‘People are fed up’

Sonko is a religious Muslim well-liked with kids and got here third to Sall within the 2019 election.

But his political future was abruptly clouded final month when the rape fees have been filed in opposition to him by an worker at a salon the place, he mentioned, he went to obtain again massages.

The allegation comes amid uncertainty over whether or not Sall, 59, will search a 3rd time period in workplace.

Senegalese presidents are restricted to 2 consecutive phrases, however Sall launched a constitutional referendum in 2016, which some fear he’ll exploit to run once more.

Other presidents in West Africa – corresponding to Guinea’s Alpha Conde or Ivory Coast’s Alassane Ouattara – have used constitutional modifications to win third phrases.

On Saturday, the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States, which incorporates Senegal, urged all events within the nation to train restraint and stay calm.


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