Senegalese authorities have restricted internet access as demonstrations over the detention of an opposition leader intensify, internet monitor NetBlocks reported on Friday.
Over the past 2 days, at least 1 person has been killed in clashes between riot police and supporters of Ousmane Sonko, who say his detention on Wednesday in the wake of a rape allegation is politically motivated.
NetBlocks said social media and messaging apps including Facebook, WhatsApp, and Youtube had been restricted early on Friday ahead of a planned protest by civil society and opposition parties led by protest movement “Y En A Marre” (Enough is Enough).
46-year old Sonko, a tax inspector who came third with 15% of the vote in the 2019 presidential election, enjoys widespread support among Senegalese youth. He faces questioning after he was stripped of his parliamentary immunity last week.
On Wednesday, he was arrested on charges of disturbing public order after protests broke over a rape allegation against him that he says is an attempt by President Macky Sall’s government to undermine him.
While not immune to political unrest, it has been several years since Senegal – one of West Africa’s most stable democracies – has seen such a violent standoff between demonstrators and the authorities.
Samira Daoud, regional director of rights group Amnesty International, called on the Senegalese authorities to “respect the freedom of peaceful assembly throughout the country.”
Amnesty voiced concern about what it said was a wave of arbitrary detentions in a crackdown that has seen 2 private TV channels suspended for 72 hours for their coverage of the protests.
The streets of Dakar were quiet early on Friday. Some had been swept clean of rubble and burned tires from the previous day, when protesters lobbed rocks at riot police who fired guns and tear gas in response.
Bracing for the protests, some schools and shops were shuttered following looting and destruction in many neighborhoods in the capital.