Senegal claims more protests when the opposition leader is due to appear in court

Detained Senegalese opposition leader Ousmane Sonko will appear in court on Monday, urging his supporters to “massively take to the streets” for a new round of protests against his arrest.

Five people, including a schoolboy, have been killed during days of clashes caused by the arrest, the worst violence in years in a country commonly seen as a beacon for stability in a volatile region.

Sonko will answer questions about a rape charge before the court in Dakar, which he says is politically motivated.

Schools in the capital have been ordered closed for a week, as the political opposition has demanded another three days of protests from Monday.

The unrest has frightened UN and Senegal’s neighbors, who have appealed to all sides to show restraint, and President Macky Sall – but to publicly address the situation – is facing increasing pressure to speak out.

Sonko, 46, a staunch critic of Senegal’s ruling elite, was arrested on Wednesday on charges of disturbing public order.

Clashes between opposition supporters and security forces had erupted while Sonko was on his way to the Dakar court to answer for the separate rape charge.

People torched cars, looted shops and threw stones at police during the protests, which has highlighted long-standing complaints about living standards and economic exclusion in the West African state.

Clashed had subsided on Saturday, but the opposition’s call to take to the streets again has led to concerns that violence may escalate.

In the face of the new protests, 19 foreign embassies in Dakar – including the United States, the European Union and France – issued a joint statement on Sunday, calling for non-violence and dialogue.

The economic community of the 15 countries in West African states also called for a peaceful solution to tensions, noting that it had “significant concerns”.


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