“Take to the streets”: Senegalese opposition calls for mass demonstrations | Political news

The opposition collective is asking its supporters to take to the streets from Monday after the death of four people during demonstrations supporting the opposition leader Ousmane Sonko.

An opposition movement in Senegal has called for three days of protests from Monday after days of clashes between police and supporters of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko.

During a press conference on Saturday in the capital, Dakar, the Movement for the Defense of Democracy – which includes the main opposition party Pastef – urged the population to “take to the streets en masse”.

At least four people have died in protests that began Wednesday before Sonko’s appearance in court to be questioned on rape charges.

The 46-year-old was detained on his way to court and arrested for disturbing public order after hundreds of his supporters clashed with police blocking unauthorized protests. His lawyer said on Friday that he was now charged with rape and death threats.

Violent clashes between police and opposition supporters continued in Dakar and elsewhere until Friday, in the worst unrest the country has seen in years, before subsiding.

In a statement on Saturday, the Economic Community of 15 West African States (ECOWAS) called on “all parties to exercise restraint and remain calm.”

The West African bloc also urged the government “to take the necessary measures to ease tensions and guarantee the freedom to demonstrate peacefully”.

A woman carrying her baby on her back picks up groceries in a burnt down and looted supermarket in the upscale Almadies district of Dakar on March 6, 2021 [John Wessels/AFP]

The statement came a day after Interior Minister Antoine Félix Abdoulaye Diome said the protests were “unprecedented and unusually provocative” organized with the support of “identified occult forces”.

Diome condemned the looting and damage to public and private property during the protests and called the violence in the streets “acts of a terrorist nature”.

Some residents, however, said a curfew linked to the coronavirus pandemic and general discontent with President Macky Sall, who took office in 2012 and was re-elected in 2019, also increased anger. public.

“While Sall has boosted the economy during his tenure, it seems some of them feel left out; there is a widening void between the haves and have-nots, ”Nicolas Haque, from Al Jazeera, told the Dakar report.

“There is a feeling that this protest is not just a matter of politics – it is a social movement,” he added from outside a looted supermarket where local residents stopped. “To get everything they can: a tin can, toilet paper.”

“They have really stripped this supermarket, even removing the refrigerators, and it shows the level of desperation among people protesting and especially among many Senegalese who are feeling frustrated after a year of restrictions due to the global pandemic,” Haque mentioned.

Sonko, who came third in the 2019 polls and has a strong audience among young people, is due to return to court on Monday to answer the rape charge. He denied the wrongdoing and said the charges are part of a model by authorities of fabricating criminal charges to prevent opponents from running for office.

The unrest 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 that he intends to run again.

With a population of 16 million, Senegal is often presented as a beacon of stability in an unstable region.

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