The World Today for June 29, 2023


Cracks in the Foundation


Senegalese opposition politician Ousmane Sonko has filed a 170-page-long court complaint in France against Senegalese President Macky Sall and top members of the West African country’s security forces for alleged crimes against humanity.

The charges stemmed from the Senegalese government’s crackdown on demonstrators since March, Agence France-Presse reported. Sonko claimed that he has compiled evidence, including documents and videos, that provide proof of at least 60 murders that merit the allegations.

It was a violent spring in the usually placid and peaceful capital of Dakar, the Economist wrote: “Smoke from burnt-out buses darkens the view, the stench of tear gas stings the eyes and chatter has been replaced by the crash of rocks into riot shields, the thud of baton on flesh, and the boom of police weapons.”

The demonstrations erupted after a court in Senegal sentenced Sonko to jail for two years on charges of “corrupting the youth” after he was accused of rape and making death threats against his alleged victim, charges he denies, calling them politically motivated. As many as 30 people died in the ensuing clashes between the protesters and security officers. The United Nations issued a warning saying that the Senegalese authorities’ deployment of firearms against demonstrators was “a dark precedent” for public safety, political stability, and human rights, wrote Africanews.

Residents of Ziguinchor in southern Senegal said that police shot and killed 17-year-old Ousmane Badio during a demonstration that was less than 1,000 feet from his home, Amnesty International wrote. In the meantime, the scars of the violence are already visible. Ousmane’s father has been in shock and can’t speak.

Many fear what might occur if Sall runs for a third term, reported the Associated Press. The ex-French colony’s constitution limits the head of state to two five-year terms, but Sall argues that changes made to the limits in 2016 would allow him to “reset” his term count. Africa has many examples of that kind of preternaturally long-lasting autocratic leader. Many Senegalese might be prepared to take the streets so they do not suffer the same fate.

It’s a fate that Senegal has escaped for most of its existence since independence from France in 1960. Instead, its stability has been held up as a model for other West African nations, often wracked by repeated coups.

Meanwhile, if Sonko doesn’t beat the charges against him, he might be disqualified to run for president in the next general election in February, Foreign Policy magazine noted. The same pent-up frustration that erupted into protests and police crackdowns might again appear.

Meanwhile, Sall is racking up a record that might convince voters that they would be better off sticking with him. As Reuters reported, he recently struck a $2.74 billion deal with wealthier countries to develop renewable energy and decarbonize the economy, a massive amount for the relatively poor country.

Both sides have plenty worth fighting for.

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