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Senegal: Authorities ban protest march and suspend internet

February 13, 2024

Authorities in Senegal suspended mobile internet services and banned a protest march against the delay of the presidential election. International observers including France and the UN have expressed concern.

Senegal Unruhen in Dakar
Three people, including a teenager, were killed in unrest sparked by the postponement of Senegal's electionImage: GUY PETERSON/AFP

Senegalese authorities on Tuesday suspended mobile internet services and banned a demonstration against the postponement of the presidential election, as international observers including France and the United Nations voiced concern about rising tensions in the country.

Three people have been killed during violent protests after President Macky Sall's decision to push back the February 25 vote until December 15 plunged traditionally stable Senegal into one of its worst crises in decades.

The Aar Sunu Election ("Let's protect our election") collective, which includes some 40 civil, religious and professional groups, had called for a peaceful rally in Dakar on Tuesday afternoon.

But authorities banned the silent protest march, which had been organized by activist groups, by saying that it would "severely disrupt" traffic in the capital.

"We will postpone the march because we want to remain within the law," said Malick Diop, coordinator of the Aar Sunu Election collective.

Senegal: mobile internet cut

Simultaneously, authorities also suspended mobile internet access for the second time this month, with the communications ministry citing "the dissemination on social networks of several subversive hate messages that have already provoked violent demonstrations."

Access to mobile data had already been temporarily restricted eight days earlier when parliament backed Sall's decision to postpone the election.

"We are deeply concerned about the tense situation in Senegal," said Liz Throssell, spokeswoman for the United Nations rights office.

"Following reports of unnecessary and disproportionate use of force against protesters and restrictions on civic space, we call on the authorities to ensure that they uphold Senegal's long-held tradition of democracy and respect for human rights," she added.

Senegal's election delay, President Macky Sall's legacy

France calls for Senegalese election

The French foreign ministry on Tuesday said Senegal must hold a new presidential election "as soon as possible" and use proportionate force when dealing with protests.

"France offers its condolences to the relatives of those who died during the demonstrations in Senegal in recent days. It calls for the proportionate use of force," the ministry said in a statement.

Senegal has long been considered one of the most stable and democratic countries in West Africa, but the vote to postpone the presidential election came after police stormed parliament and detained several opposition lawmakers.

Critics have spoken off a "institutional coup d'état" and have accused President Sall of wanting to unconstitutionally extend his second term in office – which should end in April.

Sall has repeatedly insisted that he doesn't intend to stand for reelection but rather has proposed his prime minister Amadou Ba as his successor.

Opponents have suggested that Sall wants to guarantee a Ba victory by postponing the election until a more opportune moment, which could be as late as 2025.

mf/lo (AFP, Reuters)