Violence broke out between youths and police in the capital of Senegal, Dakar, over the weekend. Officers blocked off access to the home of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko. Three opposition figures were also arrested, and the city's mayor was also prevented from leaving his home, Sonko's PASTEF party spokesman said.
Clashes in Dakar and the southern region of Casamance left three people dead, according to local media and the opposition. Young people defied a ban on demonstrations that the opposition had planned after authorities disqualified its national list of candidates for upcoming legislative elections. Police had banned the protests citing the risk of unrest.
Tensions have been growing since Senegal's highest court on June 3 upheld a decision to disqualify the national list on a technicality. Sonko and other opposition figures who had been on the list are now side-lined from the July 31 legislative election. Many fear that current Senegalese President, Macky Sall, is preparing to run for an unconstitutional third term.
In a Facebook post, Sonko said: "Mr Macky Sall, we give you an ultimatum (to) release all political hostages in your hands; beyond that, we will come and get these political hostages, whatever the cost."
Sonko accused Sall of being "a murderous president". Referring to riots that shook Senegal last year, he said: "After having murdered 14 people during the events of February-March 2021, here he is adding three more victims to his list in June 2022".
In January, Macky Sall's APR lost in several major cities, such as Dakar, Thiès and Ziguinchor. And even if the ruling coalition remains relatively popular outside the capital, the opposition gathered around Sonko has been very active since last year. Whether it is inflation, political alternation, social policy, Ousmane Sonko has seized every opportunity to denounce the governance of Macky Sall.
Sonko, who was third in the 2019 presidential election, is running for president in 2024. The opposition has accused the government of trying to neuter competition by using institutions such as the Constitutional Council to thwart Sall’s political opponents.
The Senegalese president, for his part, has been rather focused on diplomacy since the start of his presidency of the African Union (AU) last February. Macky Sall has still not decided on his possible candidacy for the next presidential election in 2024.The possibility of him running for a third term is rather badly perceived by the opposition and a majority of the population.
Sonko seems determined as he has called on supporters to bang pots on their balconies or honk their car horns for ten minutes on Wednesday in an effort to renew protests. "Let the whole of Senegal rumble and let Macky Sall understand that the Senegalese people do not agree with his dictatorial designs or his ill-fated plan for a third term," Sonko told a crowd outside his house.