Senegal fears the “trivialization of violence”.

Police officers are deployed in Dakar during demonstrations against the arrest of opponent Usman Sonko, July 31, 2023.

The authorities in Senegal, which had already restricted internet access on mobile phones earlier this week, suspended the TikTok app on Wednesday, August 2.. Social network is a service “Malignant people have the right to spread hateful and subversive messages that threaten the stability of the country”– justifies in a press release the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy.

Bitterness linked to the fear of seeing the country flare up again following violent riots following the sex conviction of Ousmane Sonko, one of President Maka Sall’s main opponents, in June and demonstrations following the dissolution of his party. , African Patriots of Senegal for Labour, Ethics and Fraternity (Pastefe), on 31 July, on the sidelines of which at least three people died in Dakar and Ziguinchor (south).

Since then, a shaky calm has returned, interrupted by incidents. In Thies, a city 60 kilometers east of Dakar, three buses caught fire. And in the capital, a scooter driver died while trying to avoid police checks. A situation that raises fears of a new fire at any moment.

Read also: Senegal: Two dead on bus attacked with incendiary device, ‘terrorist attack’ on Dakar

Moreover, on Tuesday, at the end of the day, the bus heading to the center of Dakar was struck by a Molotov cocktail. According to prosecutors, two people were killed and five others were injured, two seriously. Speaking to the body of the burnt car, Antoine Félix Diom, Minister of the Interior, said:“act of terrorism” attack committed “seven men in hoods”. A direct link to the June protests with a fatal outcome has not been established. But each camp, expressing its condolences, held the other responsible for these abuses.

“This heinous act is symptomatic of the downplaying of gratuitous violence and disrespect for human life.”, said on Wednesday the former mayor of Dakar, Khalifa Sall, head of the Taksavu Senegal party. Tierno Alassane Sall, former minister Maki Sall, who became an MP for non-aligned countries, speaks of “hell spiral” violence.

Since the beginning of the “Sonko case” in March 2021 (the date of his first arrest on a rape complaint), “the headquarters of the press and the homes of persons involved in political and judicial cases have been attacked, buses have already been burned, magistrates and journalists have been threatened … it should not surprise anyone that there are victims”comments Tierno Alassane Sall. “People want to create an atmosphere of terror, but we cannot say who they are and where they come from,” he adds, condemning the failure of the government and the defense and security forces to arrest the perpetrators and bring them to justice.

Fever attacks

Senegal has certainly experienced deadly fever outbreaks in the past. In 1988, during the re-election of Abdou Diouf, after the publication of the results, incidents erupted, causing a state of emergency and the arrest of Abdoulaye Wade, an opponent at the time before he became president in 2000. Similarly, in 2011, several people died during the protests against the third candidacy of Abdoulaye Wade – protests led by the then young opponent Maki Sall. But all observers agree on this: the social explosions that have been shaking the country since 2021 are something unprecedented.

Today, “the form and extent of violence is surprising”, observes law professor Babacar Guye, author of a report on the problems that plagued the electoral process from 2000 to 2011: “In two years, more than 60 people have died in protests, and many people are in prison for speaking their mind or participating in protests. We have a surge of repression that we did not know about. »

Read also: In Senegal, the government dissolves the party of Ousmane Sonko’s opponent, two people die in demonstrations

For Pastef, dismissed by the government because of his appeals “frequent” It has “rebel movements”it is indeed the force that opened the fighting. “Hate speech began in 2016 with the deregistration of Usman Sonko. (about public service). The party is called terrorist and Salafi. So this violence comes from a state that wants to eliminate an opposition candidate in the 2024 presidential election.evaluates El Malik Ndiaye, Pastef Communications Officer.

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Supporters of the imprisoned opponent, very active on social media and in the diaspora, have gone so far as to suggest that the attack on the bus was sponsored by the authorities to justify the crackdown on demonstrators who favored Usman Sonko. El Malik Ndiaye does not make this connection, but balances the destruction of the bus and death in the riot: “Indeed, this attack is serious. But what about the people shot during the protests? What do we do about thug violence? »he asks, referring to the armed men in civilian clothes seen near the police during the events of March 2021 and June 2023.

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