Protesters in Senegal continue to target French-owned businesses across the country as they shift from demanding the release of arrested Pan African opposition leader, Ousman Sonko to a manifestation of frustrations over social inequalities and foreign economic influence in the West African State previously praised for its stable democracy.
The protesters, who are critical of their country’s historic relationship with former colonial masters France, have targeted French-owned businesses such as Auchan supermarkets and Total petrol stations. They have accused President Macky Sall of helping France to further and solidify its economic interests in its former colony.
Arrested Pan African opposition leader, the 46-year-old leader of the PASTEF party has presented himself as an anti-establishment figure and has trended in the 2019 election campaign on the policy of economic nationalism, a direct threat to the relationship between Senegal and Her former colonial master. His message, however, has well resonated with the youthful population in Senegal.
His constant shots at what he described as “the system” have made him unique in terms of the messages coming from the political class. In 2018, Mr. Sonko told activists in a recorded video that “There is enormous potential in this country (Senegal). It is unacceptable to see the suffering of our people”. In the same video, he branded the politicians as criminals. “Our politicians are criminals. Those who have ruled Senegal from the beginning deserve to be shot.” He said.
Until Saturday, Senegal was faced with an unprecedented wave of violence across the country following the arrest of popular Pan African youth politician, Ousman Sonko over allegations of disrupting public order. Sonko has initially been accused of rape by a professional masseuse, Aji Sarr, and was on his way to answering the charges when he was arrested by police.
Many in Senegal believe the charge(s) against Sonko are politically motivated to liquidate him and enable President Macky Sall to have an easy ride in his widely gabbed third term bid.
Democratic movements in Senegal have on Saturday called in a press conference for a three-day return of protest in the streets, nationwide, starting tomorrow, Monday.
Political ties between Senegal and France have remained strong, and opponents of President Sall have viewed France as principal enablers of President Macky Sall who has strongly been rumored to be interested in a third term bid.
Following the looting of Auchan, Papa Samaba Diouf, a spokesman for Auchan in Senegal, insisted on social media that “ransacking (French) supermarkets was not a blow to France”. “It was the Senegalese People who were attacked,” he argued.
He further went on to caution that the French Company serves as a source of employment for thousands of Senegalese and also purchases produce from Senegalese farmers throughout the country.
Since the outbreak of the protest, more than twelve people have reportedly died during clashes between mostly the youths and security forces across the country. Official death stands at six.
Senegalese regulatory authorities have since suspended the signal of two popular television channels, Sen TV and Walf TV. Observers in Senegal have noted that the Internet connection has been marked by several restrictions.