‘Massively descend on streets’: Senegal opposition calls for 3 days of protests

A demonstrator holds up a Senegalese flag during protests against the arrest of opposition leader and former presidential candidate Ousmane Sonko in Dakar, Senegal, Friday, March 5, 2021. Days of violent protests in Senegal have killed at least one person, local reports say, as young people take to the streets nationwide in support of the main opposition leader who was detained Wednesday. Photo: Leo Correa

A Senegalese opposition collective on Saturday called for three days of protests starting Monday, following clashes that have left at least four people dead.

At a news conference in the capital Dakar, the Movement for the Defence of Democracy, which includes the leading opposition party Pastef, urged people to “massively descend on the streets.”

The call comes after days of clashes between opposition supporters and police in the West African state, which followed the arrest of Pastef leader, Ousmane Sonko, on Wednesday.

Police arrested Sonko after scuffles with his supporters broke out while he was on his way to court to answer a rape charge, which he says is politically motivated.

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Violent clashes then continued through Friday, in the worst unrest Senegal has seen in years, with protesters torching cars and shops in the capital Dakar.

Tensions appeared to have mostly calmed by Saturday, however.

But the Movement for the Defence of Democracy, which includes civil-society groups as well as Pastef, urged Senegalese people to keep protesting from Monday.

It also demanded that the government release “political prisoners,” respect the right to protest, and that it resrestorese licenses of the two television channels that were temporarily suspended for broadcasting images of the unrest.

Sonko, a 46-year-old who is considered a challenger to President Macky Sall, is due to appear before a judge in Dakar on Monday, on the rape charge.

The rape allegation against him comes amid uncertainty over whether Sall, 59, will seek a third term.

Senegalese presidents are limited to two consecutive terms, but Sall launched a constitutional review in 2016, raising suspicions he intends to run again.

Senegal, a former French colony of 16 million people, is often heralded as a beacon of stability in a volatile region.

© AFP – Agence France Presse