DAKAR(AP)-Senegal has announced the temporary closure of its consulates abroad following a wave of violent protests that erupted last week after opposition leader Ousmane Sonoko was sentenced to two years in prison, forcing him to face an upcoming election. I was effectively barred from running for president. The unrest, which spanned several days, resulted in at least 16 deaths and dozens of injuries, one of the worst episodes of unrest the West African country has seen in decades.
During the protests, protesters clashed with security forces, resulting in extensive damage and destruction of public and private property. University buildings, petrol stations, banks, supermarkets, administrative facilities and bus stops were among the structures targeted by looters and thugs.
While the ministry did not explicitly link the attacks to Sonoko’s conviction or the violence that followed, it cited the series of attacks as the reason for the temporary closure of the Senegalese consulate. The Consulate General in Milan suffered particularly extensive damage, including the destruction of passport-making machines and ID cards.
Consular services will resume after security measures are restored and essential equipment is repaired or replaced, the ministry said. Reports from Italy indicated that the consulate in Milan was attacked by a group of around 40 Sonoco supporters who ransacked the premises, assaulted the consul general, and set it on fire before police intervened.
In Paris, videos that went viral on social media showed a small group of protesters throwing flour at a Senegalese embassy car and its passengers, although the authenticity of the footage was independently verified by Reuters. Could not be done.
Sonoko’s political party, Pastef, has consistently called for street protests, urging supporters to join the resistance at home and within the diaspora. The legal woes facing Sonoko initially sparked protests in 2021 when he was briefly detained on rape charges, which he and his supporters saw as politically motivated to hinder his candidacy. Although Sonoko was acquitted of rape charges last week, he was found guilty of “corruption of youth” for his involvement with a woman in her 20s at the time of the incident.
Sonoko, who has emerged as a symbol of growing disillusionment with President Macki-Sal, is currently appealing the verdict in the libel case, which could further complicate his political ambitions.
Human rights organizations have accused security forces of using excessive force during protests, including using live ammunition against protesters. However, the government and justice system deny these allegations.
Additionally, Senegal’s government restored mobile internet access across the country on Tuesday, two days after it was selectively shut down in some areas in response to violent unrest. The Ministry of Communications issued a statement confirming the restoration of internet services.