Because of violent attacks on Senegalese missions abroad, the government of Head of State Macky Sall has temporarily closed its consulates in Bordeaux, Paris, Milan and New York, among others. This was announced by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the capital Dakar.
The closures came a week after the deadly riots that broke out after a leading opposition politician, Ousmane Sonko, was sentenced to two years in prison. Nevertheless, the Foreign Ministry denied any connection with the consulate closures. “This precautionary measure was taken in response to a series of attacks that have caused serious damage,” it said in a statement.
Opposition leader out of the running?
The protests in front of and inside the Senegalese consulate in Milan were particularly violent. Italy’s public television Rai News reported that around 40 Sonko supporters gathered in front of the building on Monday, waving flags and anti-government placards. As a result, machines for issuing ID cards and passports were destroyed, the Foreign Ministry said in Dakar. The Consul General was also said to have been attacked and a fire set before the police could intervene.
The trigger for the protests, which went far beyond Senegal, was Ousmane Sonko’s two-year prison sentence for “seducing young people”. The 48-year-old is said to have forced a then 20-year-old to have sex two years ago. His supporters, on the other hand, see the process as politically motivated and as an attempt by the government to bar Sonko from running for president in the coming year.
Dead and injured – and the economy on the ground
At least 16 people were killed and hundreds injured in clashes with security forces at the end of last week and over the weekend. Shops and public buildings had been looted and destroyed, including banks, university buildings, gas stations and supermarkets.
Human rights groups complained that the security forces used “excessive force” and “live ammunition”. This was denied by the state.
Economist Mansour Sambé told the AFP news agency that last week’s violence had cost the country “billions of CFA francs, that is tens of millions of US dollars” – and thus “threatened this year’s growth targets for the Senegalese economy”.
Internet available again – situation could get worse
In the wake of the unrest, the government cut off internet access in some parts of the country. It has now been announced that mobile phone and data connections have been restored everywhere. But here, too, the consequences were far-reaching – and hit the poorest in the population in particular. Because not only was there no access to social networks via the Internet, but for many people the possibility of transferring money was also blocked. In addition, they do not get their wages and salaries transferred. And because the banks have been closed since last Wednesday, many people in Senegal fear that they will soon no longer be able to go shopping. And as if that weren’t bad enough, the National Football Association has also canceled all professional games until further notice due to the current situation.
Observers fear that tensions in the West African country will intensify again if Ousmane Sonke, who is said to be staying at his home in Dakar, is picked up there and has to begin his detention.
mak/rb (afp, rtr)