Senegal: Social Media Shut Down as protesters die after Ousmane Sonko Sentencing

Social Media Shut Down as protesters die after Ousmane Sonko Sentencing

Following the sentencing of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, social media and messaging platforms have been blocked in Senegal due to the outbreak of unrest.

In clashes between Sonko’s supporters and the police on Thursday, at least nine people lost their lives. Sonko himself was not present in court when he received a two-year prison sentence for immoral conduct but was acquitted of rape charges.

The justice minister announced that Sonko could be apprehended at any moment, and security forces have surrounded his residence in the capital city.

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Concerns arise among his supporters that this conviction might hinder the 48-year-old politician from participating in the upcoming presidential election scheduled for next year.

In Dakar, law enforcement officers are preventing supporters from reaching Sonko’s home, and even his legal representatives have been unable to visit him.

Interior Minister Antoine Félix Diome stated that the government imposed restrictions on social media usage to prevent the dissemination of hateful and subversive messages.

Violent confrontations, accompanied by burning vehicles and billowing black smoke, erupted in various districts of the capital, particularly at the university campus. Tear gas was deployed by the police.

As a result, many businesses remained closed on Friday.

Violence also erupted in the southern city of Ziguinchor, where Sonko serves as the mayor.

Sonko has garnered significant popularity among unemployed youth and has experienced a rapid political ascent in recent years. After being dismissed as a tax inspector in 2016, he was elected to parliament and became the mayor of Ziguinchor.

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The government refutes claims that the charges against Sonko, along with previous legal cases he has faced, are politically motivated.

Sonko was accused of sexually assaulting and threatening a massage therapist at a beauty salon in 2021, allegations he has denied.

Adding to the political tensions is the belief that President Macky Sall intends to pursue an unconstitutional third term, although he has not explicitly stated such intentions.