Senegal capital turns into battleground after opposition leader's arrest

Supporters are enraged at opposition leader Ousmane Sonko's legal battles, which could bar him from participating in polls

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Onlookers take stock of the damage of a ransacked supermarket Auchan, after Senegal opposition leader Ousmane Sonko was sentenced to prison in Dakar, Senegal June 3, 2023. — Reuters
Onlookers take stock of the damage of a ransacked supermarket Auchan, after Senegal opposition leader Ousmane Sonko was sentenced to prison in Dakar, Senegal June 3, 2023. — Reuters

  • Tensions remained high following two days of violent unrest.
  • Protests broke out after Sonko's sentencing on Thursday.
  • Government enlists the army to back up riot police.


Following the Vi clashes between anti-government protesters and police, the streets of Dakar, Senegal, were trashed with rubble, and shops were looted.

On Saturday, the majority of the city remained calm, but tensions remained high following two days of violent unrest in numerous cities that claimed at least ten lives, caused untold destruction, and scared Senegal's neighbours and partners, Reuters reported.

In protest of populist opposition leader Ousmane Sonko's sentencing on Thursday, crowds took to the streets, setting fires and hurling rocks at security personnel as they followed his party's appeal to defy the law.

In the protest, at least two petrol station shops in Dakar's Ouakam and Ngor districts had their windows broken, while an Auchan supermarket in the highly populated Grand Yoff was set on fire and pillaged by mobs.

The roadways, which had been burned to a dark char, were covered in debris.

"The police couldn't do anything; there were too many of them," said resident Khadija by the Auchan, whose interior was gutted and strewn with broken shelves, mud, and trash.

"The police had to leave after several attempts to control the crowd with tear gas grenades," she added.

Moreover, the government has enlisted the army to back up riot police in Ouakam, with shop owners opening late due to fear of unrest.

"We are so scared because you don't know when the crowds will come, and when they come, they take your goods; they are thieves," said Abdou Ndiaye, the owner of a nearby corner shop, in his storeroom that was stacked with sacks of food and household items.

"There are people who demonstrate, but there are others who do whatever they want," he added.

The turmoil in Senegal, long seen as one of West Africa's most stable democracies, is the most recent in a string of demonstrations.

They are enraged at Sonko's legal battles, which could prohibit him from participating in the elections the following year. He claims they are politically motivated and rejects any wrongdoing, which the government denies.

The opposition is also worried that President Macky Sall will attempt to bypass the two-term limit and run once more in the elections in February.