AFRICA/SENEGAL - "We are still dealing with the spontaneous protests of a youth that's angry because they have no future"

Wednesday, 2 August 2023 youth  

Dakar (Fides News Agency) – "These are spontaneous protests of a younger population with no future. At the moment there are no groups organizing the riots", Fides News Agency was told by Fr. Bruno Favero, with the Oblate Missionaries of Mary Immaculate (OMI) from Dakar, the capital of Senegal where, yesterday, two people were killed in an attack with an incendiary device on the bus they were riding.
According to the driver's statement, a group of hooded youngsters had gotten into the vehicle in a suburban working-class neighborhood, they insulted him, and then one of them threw a handmade incendiary device at him -
This attack is just the latest of the most serious episodes in the unrest that has rocked Senegal since June following the exclusion of Ousmane Sonko, a candidate with the opposition, from the 2024 presidential election.
“Sonko has a strong popular following. His exclusion from politics has created resentment among his supporters and some of them have taken action with spontaneous protests that in several instances took on a violent character" explains Fr. Bruno. "It is mostly the younger people from city suburbs, starting with Dakar, who protest," the missionary continues. "These are young, unemployed people who have no prospects for the future and who live by the day. They are people who can become attracted by petty crime, but at the moment I would rule out the possibility that behind this violence there are groups organizing it. The attack on the bus is a very serious event, but I hope it is just the result of the perpetrators' criminal recklessness and not the sign that forms of terrorism are starting" says Fr. Bruno.
Coming third in the 2019 presidential election, Sonko advocates an "anti-establishment" program focused in particular on rebalancing relations with European countries, including France, which has sparked enthusiasm in young people
He was sentenced on May 8 to six months' imprisonment with a suspended sentence after an appeal trial for defamation, a penalty that may make him unelectable. On June 1, he received a two-year prison sentence for a sex scandal, a sentence that makes him unelectable. This conviction has caused the most serious unrest Senegal has seen in recent years, which resulted in 16 deaths according to the authorities, a number closer to 30 according to the opposition.
Finally, on 31 July he was arrested on charges of various crimes, including calling for insurrection. His party, Pastef, was disbanded by the authorities.
What will happen now, with Sonko's arrest, is still up for speculation. "I would exclude a civil war for the moment," says Fr. Bruno- but we have certainly entered an uncertain and difficult period". (L.M.) (AP) (Fides News Agency 2/8/2023)