DAKAR, 8 March 2021 – Schools in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, are shut for this week amidst fears that some of the violent riots of last week will return early this week.
Armored cars and riot police have been deployed at strategic road junctions in Dakar and other cities of the country.
Officials on Monday showed that they were cracking under the pressure from the street, with a court in Dakar releasing, on bail, the detained main opposition leader Ousmane Sonko whose arrest and detention triggered the protests
The Senegalese government provided an update of the death toll so far, admitting that last week’s violent protests had led to the shooting dead of five people.
Rights groups and opposition sources provide a higher death toll for the protests which tdegenerated into riots and looting in some parts of the country, notably Dakar.
“Protests in Senegal have already led to the death of at least eight individuals last week, some of them caused by the use of excessive force and firarmes by security forces,” said Samira Daoud, the Amnesty International’s Director for West and Central Africa.
The opposition Movement for the Defence of Democracy coalition called Saturday for three days of street demonstrations – Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
Sako appeared in court to face rape charges which he has denied as unfounded.
On Monday, Amnesty International reiterated the rights group’s “call on the authorities to launch impartial investigations into the circumstances of these deaths”.
Amnesty urged officials “to ensure people can safely exercise their right to peaceful assembly” and demonstration.
Protests broke out Wednesday as Sonko, who was stripped of his parliamentary immunity last Friday, was being led to answer questions before a magistrate in Dakar.
Part of Sonko’s defense has consisted of insisting that the charges against him – brought by a Senegalese beauty salon employee – are politically motivated.
On Monday, the United Nations, Amnesty International and several Western ambassadors in Dakar called on both sides to show restrain.
“The use of force by security forces must be exercised with restraint, only when necessary and in a proportional manner. Firearms must only be used as a last resort when strictly necessary to protect against the imminent threat of death or serious injury,” Amnesty International said in a statement Monday.
“Members of the security forces who use excessive force or unlawful lethal force must be prosecuted,” Amnesty International has recommended.