Dakar, Jun 3 (EFE).- At least 15 people have died in the violent protests in Senegal after opposition leader Ousmane Sonko was sentenced last week to two years in prison for “corruption of minors”, Amnesty International reported Saturday.
Sonko’s conviction comes after he was tried on May 23 for allegedly raping a young masseuse.
The sentence, if upheld, would prevent him from running in the 2024 presidential elections.
“Some 15 deaths over the last two days, with further deaths likely to have occurred during the night,” Samira Daoud, AI’s regional director for West and Central Africa, said Saturday on Twitter.
“Numerous eyewitness accounts point to gunshot wounds and the presence of armed plain clothes militias,” she added.
Daoud called for an investigation into “the role of armed individuals in civilian clothes seen in several places beating protesters and even using firearms.”
Videos shared on social media show the militias in white pick-up trucks.
AI also denounced the “arbitrary” arrests of members of the opposition, civil society and journalists since the sentence was made public and the “hundreds” of arrests in recent months, amid an escalation of political tension in the country.
Daoud called on authorities to stop silencing dissent or criticism and to release peaceful protesters who have been arrested.
EFE was able to confirm that the army has been deployed on the streets of Dakar to secure gas stations and supermarkets and prevent looting.
The protests began on Thursday after the announcement of a two-year prison sentence against opposition leader Ousmane Sonko.
Protesters erected barricades using burning tires and vehicles, threw stones at police forces and looted stores and public buildings, with police using tear gas in an attempt to restore order.
Sonko and his entourage have denounced the “instrumentalization” of justice by Macky Sall – the president since 2012 who was reelected in 2019 – in order to prevent him from running in the presidential elections scheduled for February 2024. EFE