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A Senegalese court sentenced two opposition lawmakers to six months in jail for physically attacking a pregnant female legislator in parliament, an incident that underscored the political tensions in the West African country following last year’s legislative elections, Agence France-Presse reported.
The incident occurred during a parliamentary debate last month that saw pro-government legislator Amy Ndiaye slapped and kicked in the abdomen by MPs Mamadou Niang and Massata Samb.
The scuffle began after Ndiaye made remarks about an influential Muslim leader who supports the opposition – but is not a lawmaker. Authorities later arrested Niang and Samb on Dec. 15.
Ndiaye fainted and was given medical treatment. Her lawyer, Boubacar Cisse, said that there were fears she might lose her baby. Although she has since left the hospital, Cisse noted that his client “remains in an extremely difficult situation.”
The court also ordered the lawmakers to pay a fine of $150 and more than $8,000 in damages to Ndiaye.
The incident intensified Senegal’s political tensions, which have grown since the ruling party lost its comfortable majority in a July election, Sky News noted.
The loss was seen as a rebuke of President Macky Sall, who is unsure whether he will run for a third term in 2024, a move the opposition claims would violate term limits and an earlier vow.
At the same time, the parliamentary fight also triggered a heated debate regarding legislative discourse and attacks on women. It happened to coincide with a domestic abuse awareness campaign.
Senegal is largely seen as a model of stability and democracy in West Africa, a region rife with coups and dictatorships.