Protests over the postponed presidential election sparked clashes between security forces and demonstrators in Senegal’s capital and other cities, raising concerns of potential long-term turmoil.
In Dakar, the capital city, law enforcement officers in protective gear used tear gas, stun grenades, and potentially rubber bullets against a large group of demonstrators who were setting tires on fire and throwing rocks. According to a journalist from Reuters, this occurred.
According to a statement released online by opposition leader Khalifa Sall, a student was fatally injured in the northern city of Saint-Louis. Reuters was unable to confirm the information at this time and a representative from the university the student attended did not provide a comment when asked.
Sall stated that all democratic individuals are deeply affected by the recent outbreaks of conflict caused by the unjustified suspension of the electoral procedure. He has referred to these events as an “institutional coup”.
Just under three weeks prior to the 25th of February election, parliament decided to postpone it until December, resulting in an extension of President Macky Sall’s term. This has sparked worries that one of the few remaining democracies in coup-prone West Africa is in danger.
In the city of Dakar, certain protesters displayed the flag of Senegal, while others chanted phrases like “Macky Sall is an authoritarian ruler”.
According to residents and posts on social media, protesters clashed with authorities in various locations, such as Touba in central Senegal, Thies east of Dakar, Richard Toll in the north, and Kolda in the south.
Macky Sall, who has served two terms as allowed by the constitution, explained that he postponed the voting because of a disagreement over the list of candidates, which could have compromised the legitimacy of the election.
Certain individuals criticize him for attempting to maintain control, while the regional organization Ecowas and international powers have denounced the action as a departure from Senegal’s democratic principles.
The justice minister, Aissata Tall Sall, stated that Senegal is currently facing an unprecedented crisis and it is important for us to find a way to overcome it. She emphasized the need to maintain a sense of calm during this difficult time.
During an interview on Friday, Tall Sall stated that the delay in scheduling was not determined by the president, but rather by parliament. She additionally mentioned that the constitutional court does not have authority over the legal disputes that have been submitted.
She stated that the delay of the presidential election was in complete accordance with the constitution.
The US embassy in Dakar announced on Friday that they stand behind Ecowas’ request for authorities to adhere to the constitution and restore the electoral schedule.
According to an online post from the embassy, numerous Senegalese political and civil society figures have expressed agreement with this perspective.
On Monday, a postponement bill was approved by 105 out of 165 legislators in the assembly. This occurred after security forces stopped a group of opposition members from obstructing the vote and used tear gas to disperse small protests outside the parliament.
A group of thirty-nine legislators from the opposition coalition Yewwi Askan Wi, along with multiple opposition candidates for president, have submitted legal complaints to the constitutional court.
According to Tall Sall, the court lacked jurisdiction to address these issues. She did not specify which legal entity would address the challenges, but noted that the fact that opponents were resorting to the court indicated a functional democracy.