Clashes between police and supporters of Senegalese opposition leader Ousmane Sonko left nine people dead, the government said Friday, with authorities issuing a blanket ban on the use of several social media platforms in the aftermath of the violence.

Iran PressAfrica: The deaths occurred mainly in the capital, Dakar, and the city of Ziguinchor in the south, where Sonko lives and serves as mayor, Interior Minister Antoine Felix Abdoulaye Diome said in a statement.

Some social media sites used by demonstrators to incite violence, such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter have been suspended, he said.

“The state of Senegal has taken every measure to guarantee the safety of people and property. We are going to reinforce security everywhere in the country,” Diome said. On Friday, the government deployed the military to parts of the city as clashes continued between police and Sonko supporters.

Ousmane Sonko

Sonko was convicted Thursday of corrupting youth but acquitted on moral charges against a woman who worked at a massage parlor and making death threats against her. Sonko, who didn’t attend his trial in Dakar, was sentenced to two years in prison. His lawyer said a warrant hadn’t been issued yet for his arrest.

Sonko came in third in Senegal’s 2019 presidential election and is popular with the country’s youth. His supporters maintain his legal troubles are part of a government effort to derail his candidacy in the 2024 presidential election.

Sonko is considered President Macky Sall’s main competition and has urged Sall to state publicly that he won’t seek a third term in office.

Since the verdict was announced, clashes have erupted throughout the country, with protesters throwing rocks, burning vehicles and in some places erecting barricades while police fired tear gas, Associated Press reported.

The clashes forced the closure of the main university in Dakar. 

Security forces patrolled the streets Friday and stood guard outside some supermarkets and shops, anticipating more unrest. Tight security remained around Sonko’s house with police preventing anyone from getting close to the premises. Sonko has not been heard from since the verdict. However, his PASTEF-Patriots party has called for people to take to the streets in protest.

Rights groups have condemned the government crackdown, which has included arbitrary arrests and restrictions on social media.

Under Senegalese law, Sonko’s conviction would bar him from running in next year’s election, said Bamba Cisse, another defense lawyer. However, the government said that Sonko could ask for a retrial once he was imprisoned. It was unclear when he would be taken into custody.


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