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Arrest of opposition leader sparked deadliest political unrest in years. Authorities 3 March arrested main opposition leader and MP Ousmane Sonko – whose parliamentary immunity was removed late Feb – over rape allegations. Hours earlier, hundreds of youths protested in support of Sonko outside his house and at Cheikh Anta Diop University in capital Dakar, decrying charges as politically motivated; protesters clashed with police, leaving at least three injured. Sonko 5 March appeared in court on additional charge of disrupting public order. Protesters in Dakar same day set up street barricades, burned tyres and threw stones at police who fired tear gas and stunt grenades; Interior Minister Antoine Félix Abdoulaye Diome same day said six had died in violence, while authorities curbed internet access, suspended TV broadcasts covering protests and banned use of motorcycles and mopeds in capital as part of attempt to discourage mobilisation of Sonko’s young supporter base. Protesters 6 March burned down military police station and ransacked govt buildings in southern town of Diaobe; at least one 17-year-old killed and six others injured. Mediator of the Republic Alioune Badara Cissé next day called on authorities to “pause and speak with our youth” and warned that country was “on the verge of an apocalypse”, while education ministry announced school closures until 15 March. Unrest subsided after Sonko charged with rape and released on bail 8 March. President Sall 10 March declared day of national mourning and said COVID-19 restrictions would be lifted 19 March. NGO Human Rights Watch 12 March called for independent investigation into “reported deaths of at least ten people and injuries of hundreds” during early March protests.
Following 24 Feb presidential election, electoral commission 28 Feb declared President Sall winner with provisional result of 58.27% of vote. Runner-up Idrissa Seck conceded defeat. Tensions rose ahead of vote. Former President Abdoulaye Wade, father of barred candidate Karim Wade, 8 Feb called for boycott. In Tambacounda, 400km east of capital Dakar, clashes between President Sall’s supporters and those of opposition candidate Issa Sall 12 Feb left two dead; 24 people arrested, including twenty of Issa Sall’s bodyguards.
Ahead of Feb presidential elections, Constitutional Council 14 Jan confirmed two main opposition candidates barred from running; Karim Wade, son of former President Abdoulaye Wade, and former mayor of capital Dakar Khalifa Sall imprisoned for corruption in 2015 and 2018 respectively. Police 25 Jan blocked planned opposition march against Constitutional Council’s ruling.
Unidentified gunmen shot dead thirteen people 6 Jan near town of Borofaye in Casamance region in south, where separatists have been waging campaign for independence of Casamance region since early 1980s. Police 25 Jan arrested and charged 24 people for crime, including member of separatist Movement of Democratic Forces for Casamance.
President Sall visited Casamance separatist region late Feb to inaugurate development projects as part of greater economic strategy to resolve decades-long conflict, announced delivery of two boats to facilitate link between Dakar and Casamance regional capital Ziguinchor.