June 25, 2024

AU, UN call for calm as death toll rises in Senegal violence

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The recent violence in Senegal, sparked by the sentencing of opposition politician Ousmane Sonko, has prompted calls for calm from the United Nations (UN) and the African Union (AU).

In response to the escalating situation, the government has deployed the army in Dakar and other cities, as the death toll reached 15.


On Thursday, following Sonko’s two-year jail sentence on charges of corrupting youth, which could potentially disqualify him from the 2024 presidential elections, nine people were killed.

Despite the army’s presence, fresh clashes erupted on Friday night in parts of Dakar and Ziguinchor, resulting in six more deaths, according to government spokesman Maham Ka.

The violence has drawn international concern and condemnation. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the violence, urging all parties involved to exercise restraint. Moussa Faki Mahamat, the AU Commission President, strongly denounced the violence, emphasizing the need for leaders to avoid actions that tarnish Senegalese democracy.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) called on all parties to uphold Senegal’s reputation as a bastion of peace and stability.

The European Union and France, Senegal’s former colonial power, also expressed their concerns.

Meanwhile, Senegal’s government spokesperson, Abdou Karim Fofana, stated that “the violence was not driven by political demands but rather acts of vandalism and banditry.”

Fofana reassured the nation that Senegal would overcome these challenging times.

As a response to the crisis, the Senegalese authorities have restricted access to various social media and messaging platforms, including Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter, in an effort to control online communications and prevent the spread of “hateful and subversive messages.”

However, Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders criticized these restrictions, viewing them as an attack on freedom of expression. Both organizations called for the full restoration of internet access, emphasizing that sociopolitical violence should not be used as a justification for curtailing the right to information.

Christopher Fomunyoh from the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs highlighted the political motivation behind the legal cases against Sonko.

He expressed dismay over the loss of lives and called for mediation between the government and Sonko’s supporters by Senegalese religious leaders and civil society.

Fomunyoh emphasized the need for concessions from both sides to establish an environment conducive to credible and inclusive presidential elections scheduled for February 2024.

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