After clashes on campus Dakar university students return home

Students were seen leaving with their belongings on Friday as they walked past the wrecks of burnt out vehicles and damaged buildings on the university’s campus.

The students of the University Cheikh Anta Diop of Dakar leave campus following a decision by the administration to clear the premises. This comes a day after clashes between demonstrators and law enforcement in the on campus. Violence broke out across Senegal after the sentencing of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko to two years in prison, a candidate for the 2024 presidential election.

Clashes between police and supporters of Senegalese opposition leader Ousmane Sonko forced the closure Dakar’s main university.

Students were seen leaving with their belongings on Friday as they walked past the wrecks of burnt out vehicles and damaged buildings on the university’s campus.

Sonko was convicted on Thursday of corrupting youth but acquitted on charges of raping a woman who worked at a massage parlor and making death threats against her.

The court sentenced Sonko to two years in prison.

Since the verdict was announced, clashes have erupted throughout the country, with protesters throwing rocks, burning vehicles and in some places erecting barricades while police fired tear gas.

According to the government on Friday, nine people died in the violence and authorities issued a blanket ban on the use of several social media platforms.

The deaths occurred mainly in Dakar and Ziguinchor in the south, where Sonko is mayor, Interior Minister Antoine Felix Abdoulaye Diome said in a statement.

Some social media sites used by demonstrators to incite violence, such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter have been suspended, he added.

Sonko came in third in Senegal’s 2019 presidential election and is popular with the country’s youth.

His supporters maintain his legal troubles are part of a government effort to derail his candidacy in the 2024 presidential election.

Sonko didn’t attend his trial in Dakar, and was judged in absentia.

His lawyer said a warrant hadn’t been issued yet for the politician’s arrest.

Sonko is considered President Macky Sall’s main competition and has urged Sall to state publicly that he won’t seek a third term in office.

Heavy security presence in Senegal after deadly clashes

Senegalese authorities on Friday deployed security forces around the capital Dakar, a day after an outburst of violence left nine people dead following the conviction of opposition politician Ousmane Sonko.

Clashes erupted on Thursday after Sonko, President Macky Sall’s fiercest opponent, was convicted for “corrupting” a young woman, in a case which has deeply divided Senegal, usually a bastion of stability in West Africa.

The ruling may disqualify Sonko from contesting next year’s presidential election.

On Friday, men in fatigues carrying rifles were stationed at various points in Dakar, where the streets were deserted and activity had virtually ground to a halt, journalists observed.

“While appealing for calm and serenity from our fellow citizens, the state of Senegal has taken all measures to guarantee the safety of people and property”, Interior Minister Antoine Diome declared overnight after one of the deadliest days of political protests for years.

On Thursday, shops and public facilities were ransacked and the motorway between Dakar and the international airport was overrun with demonstrators.

Young people clashed with security forces, with stones and tear gas being thrown.

The interior minister took to national TV to announce nine deaths.

Shops remained closed on Friday along entire streets still bearing the scars of the previous day’s violence.

Senegal’s former colonial power France said on Friday that it was “extremely concerned” by the eruption of violence.

“(France) calls for restraint, an end to violence and a resolution to the crisis, respecting Senegal’s long tradition of democracy,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

– University damage –

There was extensive destruction on the main university campus, where prolonged clashes took place on Thursday.

Students with suitcases lined the streets outside the university, struggling to find transportation after being told to leave campus.

The government acknowledged that it had restricted access to social networks such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter in order to stop “the dissemination of hateful and subversive messages”.

Trouble was also reported Thursday in Zinguinchor in the south, Mbour and Kaolack in the west and St Louis in the north.

Before Thursday’s violence, around twenty civilians had been killed since 2021 in disturbances largely linked to Sonko’s legal affairs.