African Union, West African bloc urge restraint in Senegal amid tense tension

The African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) regional bloc condemned violence Friday that erupted in Senegal after opposition leader Ousmane Sonko was sentenced to two years in prison for “corrupting youth.” 

Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, "strongly" condemned the violence in a statement.

“Such acts tarnish the image of Senegalese democracy, of which Africa has always been proud," said Faki, urging all political actors to exercise restraint and dialogue.

The AU urged Senegalese authorities to respect the right to peaceful demonstration.

The ECOWAS deplored the loss of life and called “for restraint and the settlement of disputes by peaceful means.”

“ECOWAS strongly condemns the violence that has targeted security forces, public property, private property and disturbed public order,” it said in a statement.

Amid the tense situation, media reports said there was heavy deployment of security forces around the national capital of Dakar, that were patrolling largely empty streets Friday.

At Independence Square in downtown Dakar, meters from the presidential palace, the army reportedly replaced police to ensure public security.

Government spokesman Abdou Karim Fofana assured the nation that the situation was stable.

ECOWAS said its commission is following with concern the development in Senegal and urged “everyone to defend the country's commendable reputation as a bastion of peace and stability.”

At least nine people were killed in clashes, and public and private properties were vandalized following Sonko’s sentencing.

Sonko was charged with rape and making death threats against Adji Sarr, an employee of a beauty salon in Dakar in 2021.

A court acquitted Sonko of rape Thursday but sentenced him to two years for corrupting the youth, disqualifying him from running in the presidential elections.

Sonko finished third in the 2019 election against President Macky Sall, but during the trial, he said the case against him is politically motivated to prevent him from running in 2024.

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