By Abia Noumbissi
At least 10 people have died in clashes between protesters and police in Dakar and other cities as demonstrations over the sentencing of opposition politician, Ousmane Sonko continue into its third day.
One person who was killed was an individual who goes by the Twitter username, BUUR-JOIE BI, who was killed by security forces shortly after tweeting to Twitter owner Elon Musk for help with providing internet access.
The plea came hours after the Senegalese government shut off the internet to stem protesters from sharing what was happening in the country.
“The Senegalese government has blocked internet access to the Senegalese people. This is a violation of human rights and an attempt to silence dissent. We urge you to use Starlink to provide internet access to the people of Senegal” his tweet says.
Although his death has not yet been reported by official news sources, community members have taken to Twitter to share the news.
Netblocks Metrics confirmed that the government restricted access to social media and messaging platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, and YouTube on 1 June, the day that Sonko was convicted.
Sonko, 48, was originally arrested in March after being accused of raping a 20-year-old woman who worked in a massage parlor in 2021 and making death threats against her.
On Thursday, a criminal court cleared him of the rape charges but charged him with a separate crime of “corrupting young people” which is using one’s power to have sex with people under the age of 21. It is a criminal offense in Senegal that is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of at least 6,000 USD.
He was sentenced to two years in prison but has not yet been arrested. Sonko has maintained his innocence and both he and his political party, Patriots of Senegal for Ethics, Work and Fraternity (PASTEF), say that the verdict was politically motivated as he is one of the most vocal and popular challengers of President Macky Sall. Sonko has also urged Sall to state publicly that he will not run for a third term which is illegal under Senegalese law. Although Sall’s government has said that he will not seek another term he has yet to publicly announce that himself.
“With this sentence, Sonko cannot be a candidate,” one of his lawyers, Bamba Ciss, said. Based on Senegal’s electoral law Sonko would be ineligible to run for president during next year’s election.
And being that he was sentenced in absentia, meaning as he was not present on Thursday, he cannot appeal the decision. He came in third during the 2019 elections and was hoping to run again in 2024 as one of the most popular candidates amongst the country’s youth.
“The verdict cements the criticism that Sall’s government is weaponizing the judiciary to eliminate prominent rivals that could shake his rule.”
After the verdict was read on state news early Friday morning PASTEF called on its supporters to “stop all activity and take to the streets.”.
In several neighborhoods in Dakar as well as Ziguinchor, where Sonko is mayor, protesters threw rocks and burned vehicles while police fired tear gas in one of the most violent standoffs in recent years.
Police officers are also still currently blocking his supporters and even his lawyers from being able to reach his home in Dakar where Sonko has been since Thursday.
Protests continue to erupt in the country as well as in different cities around the world, led by Senegalese communities across the diaspora.
One such protest occurred yesterday morning in Paris, France in front of the Senegalese embassy.
These protests have come at the heels of others at the start of the month following speculation that President Macky Sall was planning to stand for an unconstitutional third term. The news did not sit well with the younger population, who took to the streets.
There has been unconfirmed information on Sunday morning that the military was considering stepping into power to restore calm.
This is a developing Story