Senegal: Unrest after opposition leader arrest leaves four dead

Violent clashes continued for the third day in the west African nation of Senegal following the arrest of the opposition leader on Wednesday.

Demonstrators clashed with police, leaving at least four people dead.

Ousmane Sonko, the 2019 presidential candidate was arrested on March 3 and charged with disturbing the public order while he was on his way to court to defend himself against rape charges, which he and his supporters say are politically motivated.

On Friday Interior Minister Antoine Felix Abdoulaye Diome vowed to use “all the means necessary for a return to order”.

Speaking on national TV, Mr Diome accused Mr Sonko of “issuing calls to violence”.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged protesters and police to refrain from violence in the nation which is one of West Africa’s most stable countries.

On Friday police fired tear gas at Mr Sonko’s supporters, who set up makeshift barricades in the capital Dakar where the ground was covered in burnt debris and people chanted “Free Sonko”.

Demonstrators gathered in the city’s surrounding areas and in the southern city of Bignona, a stronghold of Mr Sonko.

Two private TV channels that covered the protests have been suspended for 72 hours by the government.

On Thursday Internet monitor NetBlocks said access to social media and messaging apps was restricted.

Some of the protesters have targeted French-owned businesses such as supermarkets and petrol stations because they say that under President Macky Sall, France has extended its economic interests in its former colony.

Mr Sonko was a former chief tax inspector in Senegal, and a tax justice advocate. Sonko was the youngest candidate to run in the 2019 presidential election in Senegal and is seen as the president’s only remaining serious challenger.