Growing concern over violent protests in Senegal, and the country’s decision to ban the main opposition party Pastef Les Patriotes, has led to global calls to protect human rights in the West African nation, one long considered a successful model of democracy on the African continent.
Social media platform Tik Tok has been shut down, while Senegal experienced Wednesday its second day of “curfew-style mobile internet blackouts, the latest in a series of measures leading up to the arrest of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko,” said digital rights watchdog NetBlocks.
The shutdowns follow on the efforts of President Macky Sall and his administration to crack down on the political opposition. Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and YouTube all have been subject to blackouts in recent months.
At least two people died on Monday as protests swept through Dakar and the city of Ziguinchor, according to the interior minister. At least 16 people died in June during similar protests that followed efforts to silence Pastef and Sonko, with Human Rights Watch reporting at least 500 arrests. Clashes in 2021 led to 14 deaths.
Sonko’s supporters blame Sall, elected in 2012, for wanting to prevent any political challenge from Sonko, who placed third in the country’s 2019 presidential elections. Sall ruled out running for a third term in July, one that more than 100 political parties and civil society groups, led by Sonko, have opposed as unconstitutional.
“The government of Senegal must respect its human rights obligations,” said Senegalese human rights activist Alioune Tine. “It must prioritize dialogue with the opposition over the use of indiscriminate repression that leads to violence and instability.”
Image: PASTEF file