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UN, AU call for calm as death toll in Senegal violence rises

At least 10 people have been killed in Senegal following an outbreak of violence after the sentencing of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko.

The United Nations and African Union have called for calm after the sentencing of opposition politician Ousmane Sonko sparked some of the deadliest violence in recent years.

Authorities have deployed the army on the streets of the capital, Dakar, and other cities as the death toll rose to 10. Nine people were killed on Thursday after Sonko was sentenced to two years in jail on charges of corrupting youth, which may bar him from running in the 2024 presidential elections.

Another person died in new clashes on Friday in the restive southern region of Casamance when demonstrators attacked police barracks, a government spokesman told TFM television.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the violence and “urged all those involved to … exercise restraint”, a spokesman said.

The AU said its commission president, Moussa Faki Mahamat, strongly condemned the violence and urged leaders to avoid acts, which “tarnish the face of Senegalese democracy, of which Africa has always been proud”.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) called on all parties to “defend the country’s laudable reputation as a bastion of peace and stability”.

The European Union and Senegal’s former colonial power France also expressed concern over the violence.

Senegal government spokesman Abdou Karim Fofana said the violence was not fuelled by “political demands” but “acts of vandalism and banditry”.

“These are difficult times for the Senegal nation that we will overcome,” he told TFM.

Social media limited

Several social media and messaging platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter have been restricted to limit online communications, with the government saying it had restricted access in order to stop “the dissemination of hateful and subversive messages”.