Senegal has cut access to several social media platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and YouTube, amid a breakout of protests against the sentencing of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko.
?? Confirmed: Metrics show the restriction of social media and messaging platforms including Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and YouTube in #Senegal; the incident comes amid protests over the sentencing of opposition figure Ousmane Sonko
— NetBlocks (@netblocks) June 1, 2023
According to Senegalese state media, Patriots of Senegal (PASTEF) party leader Sonko was sentenced in absentia to two years in prison for “corrupting youth.” The charges stem from accusations that Sonko raped a 20 year old female message parler worker in 2021. Sonko has denied any wrongdoing, calling the charges politically motivated.
While acquitted of the rape charge, Sonko was still found guilty of “immoral behaviour” against someone younger than 21. So far a warrant has not been issued for Sonko’s arrest, although Senegalese authorities have warned he can be arrested at any time.
Demonstrators clash with riot policemen in Dakar, Senegal, June 1, 2023, after the opposition leader Ousmane Sonko was convicted of corrupting youth but acquitted on charges of raping a woman who worked at a massage parlor and making death threats against her. #AP @Leo_Correa pic.twitter.com/xYpP9e769J
— Leo Correa (@Leo_Correa) June 1, 2023
Due to the sentencing, Sonko is now ineligible for running in the upcoming presidential election next year. Due to this, his supporters have taken to the streets in protest, calling the sentencing a deliberate political ploy to derail his candidacy.
The protests have seen intense clashes with police, specifically in the capital city of Dakar. At least one person has been killed and it remains unknown how many have been arrested. Many of Sonko’s supporters are Senegalese youth and students, who have accused President Macky Sall of corruption.