One dead in Senegal protests, opposition leader in clinic

One person died Monday in southern Senegal during clashes between gendarmes and supporters of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, local government officials told AFP, as he receives medical treatment four days after violent protests.

Yankhoba Dieme, president of the local departmental council, told AFP that “a kid was shot” in the town of Bignona, a Sonko stronghold in the southern Casamance region.

The information was confirmed to AFP by an administrative official.

Clashes broke out with the security forces there when “young people spontaneously went out to demonstrate in the street” against the government, said Dieme, a member of Sonko’s party.

Violence has erupted in several cities across the country since Thursday, when a trial began against Sonko.

The firebrand politician, a fierce opponent of President Macky Sall, is being sued for defamation by Tourism Minister Mame Mbaye Niang. The trial was later postponed to March 30.

More than 400 people have been arrested throughout the country since then, El Hadji Malick Ndiaye, head of communications for Sonko’s party, told AFP.

The police and gendarmerie did not respond to requests for comment.

Sonko has remained since Thursday in a private medical clinic in the capital Dakar, where he is receiving treatment after claiming to have felt ill because of tear gas fired on his way to court, Ndiaye and Ousseynou Ly, another party official, told AFP.

“Since the FDS (Defence and Security Forces) dropped me off at my home, I have been subject to terrible dizziness, I suffer from lower abdominal pain and I have breathing difficulties,” Sonko wrote on Facebook on Thursday evening.

“Macky Sall is openly carrying out an umpteenth assassination attempt on my person,” he added — accusations echoed by his party, which claimed security forces had attempted to poison him.

The authorities did not respond to the allegations.

A conviction in the defamation case, or in a separate legal case against Sonko over rape allegations, could prevent him from contesting next year’s presidential election.

He claims the charges are part of a plot to block him from contesting the race, scheduled for February 2024.

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