One dead during violently dispersed demonstrations in Senegal

Senegal seems to be sinking into crisis on Saturday after the repression of demonstrations, during which a student was killed, in this country shaken for several days by the controversial postponement of the presidential election.

Demonstrations against this postponement and the power of President Macky Sall took place on Friday in Dakar as well as in several cities across the country, notably in Saint-Louis, in northern Senegal, where a second year geography license student, Alpha Yoro Tounkara was killed.

“He was not only a brilliant student, but also a loved and respected comrade. His warm presence and his contagious enthusiasm will be missed by all those who were lucky enough to know him,” writes Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba Diouf, president of the geography club at Gaston Berger University, where the young man studied.

His death was confirmed to AFP by an employee of the regional hospital. No report has yet been communicated by the authorities.

In Dakar, the police made abundant use of tear gas to disperse the hundreds of people who sought to gather near the Place de la Nation during a test day on the balance of power between power, society civil society and the opposition.

This mobilization throughout Senegal is the first major protest since the postponement of the presidential election initially scheduled for February 25, which opened a serious political crisis in Senegal and plunged the country into a period of uncertainty.

In the capital, the highway and major routes were blocked. All access to Place de la Nation was closed by the authorities.

Protesters responded by throwing rocks and setting up barricades with makeshift objects — planks and stones — and setting tires on fire.

Targeted journalists

Reporters Without Borders was “outraged” in a message on X at the targeting of at least 5 journalists by the police during demonstrations in Dakar. A journalist from the site Seneweb was brutally arrested and was hospitalized following discomfort, according to the NGO.

Another newspaper reporter Investigation was hit in the jaw, and tear gas was targeted in particular at the headquarters of the private television station Walf TV, whose license was recently revoked by the authorities.

“The Senegalese must be outraged, and not only on social networks,” one of the presidential candidates, Thierno Alassane Sall, told AFP.

In the commune of Nioro du Rip, some 250 km east of Dakar, a demonstration of around 200 people was also dispersed by the police, noted an AFP journalist.

At the Masjidounnour mosque in Dakar, for the great Muslim Friday prayer, imam Ahmed Dame Ndiaye protested against the political situation.

“Even the president can make mistakes and in this case it is up to us to tell him the truth,” he said, adding that “no one has the right to watch society being destroyed “.

In the morning, teachers set the tone with walkouts in schools. At the Blaise Diagne high school in Dakar, hundreds of students left their classes at 10 a.m., like Seynabou Ba, 18, who says he “no longer has hope” for democracy in his country.

“This is just the beginning of a fight. If the government persists, we will be forced to take other actions,” declared Assane Sene, a unionized history and geography professor at this establishment.

“Constitutional coup d’état”

The postponement of the presidential election for 10 months has sparked outrage widely shared on social networks. The opposition calls for a “constitutional coup”. She suspects a scheme to avoid the defeat of the candidate of the presidential camp, or even to keep President Sall at the head of the country for several more years.

A group of 14 opposition candidates filed an appeal with the Supreme Court in the afternoon.

Attempts to demonstrate since the announcement of the postponement have been repressed and dozens of people arrested.

Dozens of people have been killed and hundreds arrested since 2021 during different episodes of protest.

The Aar Sunu Election collective (“Let’s protect our election”), which is planning another demonstration on Tuesday, insisted on its desire to protest peacefully. A dozen candidates opposed to the change of calendar, out of the 20 selected by the Constitutional Council, expressed their desire for convergence with civil society.

President Sall decreed last Saturday the postponement of the presidential election, just three weeks before the deadline, in the midst of a political fight over the candidates retained or rejected for the vote.

The National Assembly approved on Monday a postponement until December 15, with the votes of the presidential camp and supporters of a failed candidate and under the protection of the gendarmes.

She also voted to maintain Mr. Sall in power until his successor takes office, probably in early 2025. Mr. Sall’s second term officially expired on April 2.

After maintaining doubt for months, he repeated on different occasions, and again on Wednesday evening, the commitment made in 2023 not to run again.

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