DAKAR, June 8 (AP) — Senegal’s president has ordered an investigation to determine who is responsible for protests by supporters of political opponents that turned deadly last week, but he has said he is willing to speak to all parties involved. parties to negotiate.
President McKee Sall made his first comments on the unrest when he addressed the Council of Ministers on Wednesday. According to the government, at least 16 people were killed, including members of the security forces. The opposition said at least 19 people were killed.
“The President of the Republic strongly condemns these extremely serious attacks against the State, the Republic and its institutions,” said government spokesman Abdou Karim Fofana. The protests, he said, included violence, looting and cyberattacks “with the undeniable purpose of sowing terror and bringing our country to a standstill.”
Clashes broke out between some protesters and police after opposition leader Ousmane Sankoh was convicted of corrupting youth but was acquitted of raping a woman who worked in a massage parlor and making death threats against her.
Sall is open to dialogue and consultation with all “the driving forces of the country, consistent with the rule of law and our common desire to live together in peace, stability and unity,” Fofana said.
Sonko did not attend his trial in Dakar and has not been seen or heard from since his conviction and sentence to two years in prison. Sonko’s house in the capital is closely guarded by security forces, and his lawyers say they have been denied access to him.
The incarceration could dent Sonko’s chances of running in Senegal’s presidential election next year. He is considered to be Sall’s main competitor. Sonko has urged Sall to state publicly that he will not seek a third term.
The constitution limits the presidency to two five-year terms, but Saar argues that an amendment passed in 2016 allows him to reset the clock and seek another term.
Analysts said Saar’s comments were a positive step towards calming tensions, but he would need to take further action to restore calm.
“His statement last night appears to be part of a strategy that has worked well in the past, to keep silent during the height of the protests so as not to escalate tensions, and then send a message of conciliation to the public,” said Mukahid Doo, senior global analyst. Mucahid Durmaz (Mucahid Durmaz) risk intelligence firm Verisk Maplecroft said. “(But) Thrall’s statement does not address the elephant in the room. The question of whether he will pursue a third term, which is the root cause of tension, has remained unanswered.”
Critics have accused Saarr’s government of a tough response since the conflict erupted.
It temporarily suspended mobile data and access to some social media sites, such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter, which it said were being used to incite violence.
Human rights groups, civilians and the opposition have accused security forces of violently cracking down on protesters, arresting people arbitrarily and deploying armed civilians, accompanied by regular military officers.
The Associated Press spoke to two families who said relatives had died from gunshot wounds as a result of the demonstrations. The Associated Press could not independently verify either cause of death. The government said armed men had infiltrated the protests and were not part of the security forces.
“The recent protest casualties set a worrying tone for the 2024 presidential election and should be thoroughly investigated and those responsible held accountable,” Karin Kanesa Nantulia, deputy Africa director at Human Rights Watch (Carine Kaneza Nantulya) said. “Authorities should end their crackdown on protesters and critics and guarantee freedom of assembly.”
The international community has called on Senegal, seen as a beacon of political stability in the coup-ridden region, to find a way to restore peace.
On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken reiterated U.S. support for the Senegalese people and their democratic values, according to a State Department spokesman.
While a cautious calm has returned to the country this week, with religious leaders exerting a strong influence in promoting meditation, there are fears that it could be fatal if Sonko is jailed, or if Sall announces he will run for a third term. The battle will break out again. (Associated Press)
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