This article needs to be updated.(August 2023)
|2023 Senegalese protests|
|Date||1 June 2023 – present|
civil unrest, violence
|Resulted in||Ongoing[clarification needed]|
The 2023 Senegalese protests broke out in Senegal on 1 June 2023 following opposition leader Ousmane Sonko's conviction for corrupting young people, which may disqualify him from standing in the 2024 Senegalese presidential election. At least 23 persons died during the protests and about 500 were arrested.
Ousmane Sonko, an opposition leader in Senegal, rose to prominence when he came in third place during the 2019 Senegalese presidential election. He is popular among the nation's youth and is considered the main opponent of Macky Sall, the incumbent president. Sonko was tried in absentia on charges of corrupting young people, rape and making death threats. He was convicted of corrupting young people, but cleared of rape and making death threats. He was given a two-year prison term, although there was no warrant out for his arrest at the time of the demonstrations. Sonko and his supporters have said that he is innocent and that Sall is trying to frame him in order to thwart Sonko's bid for the presidency in 2024. The government has denied that claim. It has said that Sonko could ask for a retrial once he is imprisoned.
There were also concerns that Sall would try to bypass Senegal's limit of two presidential terms and run again in the 2024 Senegalese presidential election. Sonko urged Sall to state publicly that he would not run in 2024. Until 3 July 2023, Sall had neither confirmed nor denied that he would try to run in the 2024 election. On 3 July, Sall said that he would not run in 2024.
After Sonko's conviction, protests started in several cities on 1 June 2023. On 2 June, Sonko's PASTEF-Patriots Party urged the populace to resist until President Sall resigned. The protests in Dakar's Ouakam and Ngor districts became violent, which overwhelmed the local police, and looting occurred. As a response to the violence, the Senegalese Army was deployed. The government and the opposition blame each other for the violence. There have been arbitrary arrests due to the demonstrations. According to Interior Minister Antoine Diome, about 500 people had been arrested by 4 June. Nine people had died by 2 June and there was extensive destruction at Cheikh Anta Diop University, which was the site of prolonged clashes where protesters set buses on fire and police fired tear gas. By 3 June, 15 people had died, including two security officers. That surpassed the death toll during the 2021 Senegalese protests, which were the first protests related to Sonko's trial. There was less violence on 4 June, but there were clashes during the day that continued into the evening. Protesters in residential neighborhoods threw rocks at police, barricaded roads and burned tires, while police fired tear gas at the protesters. On 5 June, Senegal's public broadcaster RTS said that at least 16 people had died. Two members of the security forces were among the dead. On 8 June 2023, Amnesty International announced that it had counted at least 23 deaths in the unrest. Several people were killed by gunshot wounds.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the violence and "urged all those involved to ... exercise restraint". Moussa Faki Mahamat, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, strongly condemned the violence and urged leaders to avoid acts that "tarnish the face of Senegalese democracy, of which Africa has always been proud." The Economic Community of West African States said that all parties should "defend the country's laudable reputation as a bastion of peace and stability." The European Union and France expressed concern over the violence. The United States State Department said, "Senegal's strong record of democratic governance, rule of law, and peaceful coexistence is something for which the Senegalese people can be rightfully proud. We urge all parties to voice their views in a peaceful manner."
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