| 18 June 2024, Tuesday |

Senegal rocked by more unrest as police clash with opposition protesters

Prior to a court case involving a well-known opposition politician that has incited considerable rage among the young of the West African nation, police opened fire with tear gas on stone-throwing demonstrators during street skirmishes in Senegal’s capital on Thursday.

Only months before a presidential election, demonstrators in Dakar set fire to buses, a major supermarket, and tire burnings in the most recent in a string of violent outbursts that have damaged Senegal’s reputation as a bastion of stable democracy.

Thursday’s clashes began when supporters of presidential hopeful Ousmane Sonko were blocked from accompanying his motorcade to the courthouse where he faces trial for libel.

Sonko, 48, who came third in the 2019 presidential election, is also charged with raping a beauty salon employee in 2021 and making deaths threats against her. He denies all wrongdoing and says the accusations are politically motivated to stop him running in the February 2024 polls.


Much of the anger on the street is targeted towards President Macky Sall, whose failure to rule out running for a third term in office has incensed many.

Senegal’s constitution only allows two terms, but some fear that Sall will use a recent tweak to the constitution to reset his mandate, repeating a tactic used by other rulers to extend power elsewhere in the region.

“We elected Macky Sall to work, not to establish a dictatorship. He must leave Sonko alone, if he does not leave him alone we will burn the country,” a Sonko supporter said.

Tensions have flared ahead of Sonko’s court appearance this week, with three days of protest. More than 10,000 supporters gathered at a field in Dakar on Tuesday to cheer on Sonko.

The former tax inspector urged his supporters to join him in court on Thursday for the hearing. But his convoy and supporters were stopped along a main road by police.

Sonko was forced out of his car and bundled into a police armoured personnel carrier and driven to court, triggering the clashes.

Sonko supporters accuse Sall of seeking to eliminate him from the competition with a guilty verdict.

The libel case was brought by Senegal’s tourism minister who said Sonko had allegedly accused him of embezzlement.

  • Reuters