Photo source: Global Information Network - Photo: 2024

Tensions Flare in Senegal as Government Unleashes Police Violence

By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network

NEW YORK | 17 February 2024 (IDN) — A constitutional conflict threatening the normally peaceful nation of Senegal has stumped Africa-watchers around the world, more accustomed to the nation’s popular beaches and cliffs, vibrant markets and glittering nightlife.

Beneath the peaceful exterior, however, discontent has been brewing since Senegalese President Macky Sall canceled the February 25 elections in violation of the constitution.

His unilateral action prompted young people to take to the streets, hurling stones at gendarmes and dodging police teargas instead of attending class.

“There is no justice here,” said a 22-year-old demonstrator speaking to a news reporter. He declined to give his full name because “we’re living in a dictatorship. I’m crying inside. My heart is bruised.”

The U.S. State Dept has reportedly agreed with the opposition, saying the move to delay the vote “cannot be considered legitimate.”

Since taking office in 2012, President Macky Sall has cracked down on press freedom, jailed journalists and political opponents and altered the constitution. Observers say he is holding his seat open for Prime Minister Amadou Ba, a favorite of the current ruling party.

Ba—a former tax inspector—has served as prime minister since September 2022 and previously held the key ministries of foreign affairs and finance.

Speaking at a ceremony in a Dakar hotel attended by the ruling party and its allies, Ba announced: “I am honored to tell you that I accept to be your candidate.”

But this week, news trickling down from the top election authority hints that Macky Sall may be overridden, that his rescheduling the vote till December has been declared null and void.

In Dakar, people cheered the news. Since gaining independence in 1960, no presidential poll has ever been postponed in Senegal.

Meanwhile, popular opposition leader Ousmane Sonko is still in election limbo since he was disqualified for a period of five years after a conviction for defamation.

Committee to Protect Journalists criticized Senegalese authorities

His party, The African Patriots of Senegal for Work, Ethics and Fraternity, which authorities dissolved last year, called the disqualification “the most dangerous precedent in the history of Senegal.”

Also ruled ineligible was Karim Wade, son of former Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, for holding dual citizenship, and Rose Wardini, a gynaecologist.

Angela Quintal, head of the Africa program with the Committee to Protect Journalists based in New York, criticized Senegalese authorities for throwing tear gas at journalists to prevent them for reporting. “Police should be working to protect the press, not attacking and throwing tear gas at journalists to prevent them from reporting on political demonstrations,” she said.

“They seem to be willing to stop any news coverage they don’t like.”

In a separate incident on February 9, police fired teargas at Walf TV, suspending them for a month for covering ongoing protests. Police claimed the channel “constantly” broadcasted violent images about teenagers joining the protests while they aired “subversive, hateful and dangerous statements” which incited violence and undermined state security.

The International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) has also called on Senegalese police to protect journalists covering election protests and respect the public’s right to information.

“Press freedom is vital to a functioning democracy,” they said. “Reporters must be able to cover these elections safely and accurately without fear of retribution. [IDN-InDepthNews]

Photo source: Global Information Network

IDN is the flagship agency of the Non-profit International Press Syndicate

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