SENEGAL ‘ON THE VERGE OF AN APOCALYPSE’ ?
* Click to view next slide. (Source - Instagram : gihrswitzerland)
THE ROOT OF THE PROTESTS?
The unrest is believed to be triggered by the arrest of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko on March 3rd 2021, who was accused of disrupting public order, illegal demonstration and presented with rape allegations. His supporters are of the strong belief that said accusations are politically motivated, especially considering that Mr. Sonko is a former presidential candidate.
Although, it is necessary to highlight that :
dissatisfaction with the deep social inequalities and judicial injustices,
alarmingly high unemployment rate,
lack of adequate equipment in hospitals
and the rapid deterioration of the economy due to the Covid-19 pandemic
are all key factors that contributed to public unrest.
FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AND PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY
In response to the demonstrations that broke out across Senegal, Security forces fired tear gas and live bullets, in some instances.
As of the 5th of March 2021, Amnesty International documented the deaths of at least 8 people during the demonstrations, and stated that they were “caused by the use of excessive force and firearms by security forces.” Senegal’s Red Cross reported that at least 590 were injured, including 232 who were transferred to health centers for treatment.
Furthermore, over 500 young adults have been detained, with 350 referred to court and 150 were immediately imprisoned as of the 8th of March.
The government has temporarily suspended two TV stations and restricted social media platforms including Facebook, WhatsApp, and YouTube.
Arbitrary arrests and detention of individuals participating in peaceful activities or deemed to be “political opponents” to crush dissent is a grave violation of human rights.
WHAT MUST BE DONE?
Alioune Badara Cissé, the mediator of the republic, urged the authorities to refrain from the use of threatening and intimidation tactics against protesters and further warned of future turmoil unless immediate action by government to address the deepening poverty and worrying standard of living of the youth.
The West African regional group Ecowas has condemned the violence and called on "all parties to exercise restraint and remain calm" - adding that the authorities should "take the necessary measures to ease tensions and guarantee the freedom to demonstrate peacefully".
It is imperative that Senegalese authorities conduct a thorough and independent investigation into the deaths and injuries of hundreds of peaceful protestors, guarantee the release of those detained for participation in peaceful activities since March 3, 2021 and finally ensure that security force members responsible for unlawful forms of arrest/detention and/or excessive use of force are held to account.