Senegal riots intensify before election

2012-02-20 07:36

kalahari.com

Dakar - Protesters demanding the departure of Senegal's aging president seized control of a three-block stretch in the heart of the capital, erecting barricades and lobbing rocks at police as demonstrations intensified just days before a contentious presidential poll.

Sunday marked the fifth day of violent protests ahead of the country's crucial vote. A state-owned news service confirmed the death of a young man in a suburb of the capital where the demonstrations later spread.

President Abdoulaye Wade, 85, is insisting on running again, despite the deepening unrest and calls from both France and the United States to hand power to the next generation.

Sunday's clashes marked a worrying development, because they took on a religious dimension in this normally tolerant Muslim nation.

 Hundreds had gathered outside a mosque as religious leaders met to discuss a Friday incident in which police used grenade launchers to throw tear gas down the wide boulevard, at one point hitting the wall of the mosque.

Footage of the incident shown on Senegalese TV indicated that the police had not shot inside the mosque, only outside where a crowd had gathered.

But the cloud of gas enveloped worshippers praying both inside and outside the shrine, deeply offending Senegal's largest Muslim brotherhood which owns the mosque.

Police blunder

On Sunday morning as the crowd outside the mosque grew larger, a truck of riot police took a defensive position at one end of Lamine Gueye Boulevard, and the dozens of youths erupted in jeers. They then began grabbing cinderblocks from a nearby construction site, smashing them on the pavement in order to make smaller projectiles which they hurled at police. Security forces responded with waves of tear gas.

They sparred for several hours until the protesters succeeded in seizing control of a three-block stretch of Lamine Gueye, one of two main commercial avenues traversing downtown Dakar. They grabbed market tables and pieces of plywood that had been nailed across shop windows, using them as shields to protect themselves from the tear gas grenades.

They then lined them across the road's median, as police were momentarily pushed back, waiting for reinforcements.

Each time the youths charged the police, they screamed, "Allah Akbar" and "There is no God but Allah", religious phrases that are rarely heard in his this nation that is over 90% Muslim but which has long embraced a secular identity.

"I'm worried — yes. What I'm seeing here could really degenerate into another kind of situation, a religious one," said Moustapha Faye, a young member of the Mouride Muslim brotherhood, the second largest in Senegal, as he stood behind the police line watching the confrontation. "We must absolutely avoid violence."

Later on Sunday, Interior Minister Ousmane Ngom apologised to the population, calling Friday's attack on the mosque a "police blunder". On state TV, he asked for forgiveness from the Tidiane community and all Muslims and called on the politicians to not exploit this incident for political ends state-owned TV.

The protests spread from the downtown core of the capital to numerous neighborhoods including HLM, Parcelles, Castor and Rufisque. In Rufisque, an adolescent was killed in the clashes Sunday, while on Saturday, a demonstrator was killed in the regional capital of Kaolack, bringing to six the number of people killed in three weeks of protests, according to the Senegalese Press Agency, the state-owned news service.

Tense atmosphere

The increasingly tense atmosphere on the ground has many concerned that there may be worse unrest if Wade is declared the winner of next Sunday's vote. In power for 12 years, Wade oversaw a 2001 revision to the constitution which imposed a two-term maximum, a move that at the time was hailed as proof of Senegal's democratic maturity.

 He disappointed many when he argued that the new constitution was not retroactive and so should not apply to him.

Senegal has seen protests every few days since January, when the country's highest court ruled that Wade was eligible to run for a third term. Wade has been dismissive of the opposition, characterizing their protests as nothing more than a "light breeze which rustles the leaves of a tree, but never becomes a hurricane".

The country is considered key to the stability of West Africa. It's the only nation in the region and one of the only in Africa that has never experienced a military coup.

While most African countries began experimenting with democracy post-independence in the 1960s, Senegal's democratic traditions date to at least the mid-1800s, when citizens in this former French colony were given the right to elect a deputy to the French parliament. Among them was Lamine Gueye, whose name now graces the boulevard where the youths sparred with police and who served as a senator in France in the 1950s.

Sadibou Marone and Thomas Faye contributed to this report.

- AP

Read more on:    abdoulaye wade  |  senegal  |  west africa  |  senegal elections 2012
NEXT ON NEWS24X

SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
3 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Tuesday Kuils River - 13:44 PM
    Road name: Polkadraai Road Eastbound
    ROADWORKS between the R102 Van Riebeeck Road and the R310 Baden Powell Drive exit - HEAVY DELAYS
  • Tuesday Mitchells Plain - 12:21 PM
    Road name: Eisleben Road
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Hermes way
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

30% off academic books

Score a mind blowing 30% off academic books! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

40% off appliances & homeware

Get mind blowing deals on top selling appliances and homeware. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Lenovo A1000 tablet now R999!

Get the Lenovo A1000 tablet for only R999! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Mind blowing deals on electronics!

Save up to 35% on electronics. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

New gobii smartphones from R999!

Front and rear camera's, dual SIM capability and 200MB of FREE Cell C data every month for 12 months, are just some of the many features on these smartphones. Get yours now! Shop here.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

BlackBerry Bold Touch 9900

The Blackberry Bold Touch 9900 is as the name says...

From R2999.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

It may be hard to avoid an argument or heated conversation today. Someone may be stirring things up and testing your patience. ...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.