The streets of Senegal are rife with clashes between policemen and protesters after the arrest of an opposition leader, Ousmane Sonko, last Wednesday. On the Internet, the hashtag #freesenegal keeps generating more engagement.
The protests have degenerated into violent clashes that have resulted in the death of four people according to the interior minister, a teenage student being the fifth to die on March 8, 2021.
Ousmane Sonko appeared in court last Friday and he is accused of disrupting public order and rape allegations which he denies. His supporters claim that his arrest and accusations have political undertones.
The controversy began last month when Senegalese media reported that an employee at a salon, where Mr Sonko went to get a massage, filed rape charges against him.
In the past, rivals of Senegal’s incumbent government have been targeted with criminal charges but President Sall claims there is no correlation.
Antonio Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General has called on protesters and the police to shun violence in the nation but the opposite seems to be the case as the police continue to fire tear gas at Mr Sonko’s supporters who set up barricades in Dakar, the capital city from where they chant “Free Sonko”.
So far, two private TV channels that covered the protests have been suspended for 72 hours by the government and last Thursday, the Internet monitor NetBlocks said access to social media and messaging apps were restricted.
This ruling is believed to have fuelled the fire of the protest and more people are starting to join in within Senegal and in the diaspora as the situation develops