AFRICA/SENEGAL - Riots during demonstrations: bishops call for dialogue

Wednesday, 10 March 2021 bishops   violence  

Dakar (Agenzia Fides) - "While we still have time, we must do our best to limit the damage and possibly stop it. Let's stop the cycle of violence!", calls Archbishop Benjamin Ndiaye of Dakar in a statement on behalf of the Bishops' Conference.
The message invites us to follow the path of dialogue in order to create a climate of peace and cohesion. "We can and must not only protect our rights, but also take on our duties and thus create the basic conditions for better coexistence", said the Archbishop.
The violence broke out after the arrest of 46-year-old opposition politician Ousmane Sonko, President Macky Sall's main adversary, on March 3. The Pastef party leader, third in the 2019 presidential election, was charged in early February with "rape and death threats" against a woman working at a beauty salon in Dakar. Sonko denied the allegations and replied that he was the victim of a "conspiracy" and an "attempt at political elimination". They want to prevent him from running for the presidential election of 2024.
His supporters also view these allegations as a political maneuver, similar to the one that has in recent years eliminated two other major rivals of the President, Karim Wade, son of former President Abdoulaye Wade, and Khalifa Sall, Mayor of Dakar.
A dozen people died in clashes between police and protesters in Dakar and other major cities in the country. Many more were injured and around 500 demonstrators were arrested. In addition, several supermarkets and various businesses were looted and destroyed.
"Lives have been wiped out, public and private goods, the fruits of property acquired through work, have been looted and devastated without moral or ethical considerations. This calls into question justice and makes the situation of many workers and their families even more precarious", said Mgr. Ndiaye.
Meanwhile, to calm the climate, President Macky Sall announced an easing of the curfew, which was introduced to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the Dakar and Thiès regions. The measures had mainly hit hard the so-called informal economy. He also promised to provide funding for young people.
At the moment the situation in Senegal has calmed down a bit, but those of supporters of Ousmane Sonko who have joined together in the "Mouvement de défense de la démocratie" (M2D) are calling for further demonstrations on Saturday, March 13th. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 10/3/2021)