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12 Feb, 2024 11:02

Deaths reported in violent Senegal protests

Police clashed with civilians who took to the streets to denounce a ten-month delay in the country’s presidential election
Deaths reported in violent Senegal protests

At least three people have been killed in violent demonstrations in Senegal sparked by the surprise postponement until December of the West African nation’s presidential elections, a platform that tracks protest deaths reported on Sunday.

According to civil society group Cartogra Free Senegal, the casualties occurred between Friday and Saturday and included a 16-year-old high school student who was shot and killed in the southern city of Ziguinchor when police took action against protesters.

Large-scale protests erupted across the country, one of Africa’s most stable democracies, after President Macky Sall announced plans to reschedule the national vote, which was scheduled to take place on February 25. On February 5 lawmakers passed the bill moving the date to December 15.

Sall has said the postponement was necessary because of a disagreement between the judiciary and federal lawmakers over the exclusion of key opposition candidates from the final electoral register, which he fears could trigger unrest. However, opposition parties and candidates have denounced the move, which extends the president’s term, as an “institutional coup.” His tenure, which began in 2012, was due to end on April 2, after he declared last year that he wouldn’t seek a third term.

The former colony of France has never postponed a presidential election since becoming an independent nation in 1963, and the government’s action has prompted wider concern.

The West African regional bloc ECOWAS, which has struggled to respond to a wave of coups in the region, has asked Senegalese authorities to restore the original electoral calendar and hold elections as soon as possible.

Opposition lawmakers and some of the 20 presidential candidates have filed legal challenges against the ten-month delay, warning that they will not recognize Sall as president once his term expires in April.

The Senegalese diaspora has also reportedly taken to the streets to protest the delayed vote, which is seen by some as a ploy by incumbent to stay in office. Over the weekend, there were demonstrations in both France and Germany. Nationwide protests are planned for Tuesday.

President Sall has denied claims that he is attempting to extend his tenure, stating that he would organize a national dialogue to pave the way for a peaceful electoral process.

“I am absolutely seeking for nothing except to leave a country in peace and stability. I am completely ready to pass the baton. I have always been programmed for that,” he told Associated Press in an interview on Friday.

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