Senegal Suspends Mobile Internet, Bans Election Delay Demonstration

Senegal’s government banned a scheduled march and suspended mobile internet access on Tuesday, amid continued protests over President Macky Sall’s decision to postpone the Feb. 25 presidential election.

The government’s handling of the protests, which has led to three deaths in clashes between demonstrators and security forces, received international condemnation.

The dead include a 22-year-old student at Gaston Berger University in the coastal city of Saint-Louis, who was killed Friday, a 23-year-old merchant in Dakar and a 16-year-old resident of the city of Ziguinchor who was killed Saturday while fleeing security forces.

The protests erupted after President Sall postponed the planned Feb. 25 election until December, citing disputes over the eligibility of key candidates that Sall said threatened the credibility of the vote.

Parliament backed Sall’s decision last week after security forces removed some opposition lawmakers from the chamber. Lawmakers also extended Sall’s tenure beyond April 2, when his term was scheduled to end, until the new election is held.

After the decision, the Aar Sanu Election (Let’s protect our election) collective, including 40 professional, religious and civil groups, called for a peaceful demonstration in Dakar on Tuesday. However, local authorities banned the march, saying it would block traffic in the area.

The march will be postponed, said Malick Diop, the coordinator of the collective, who says “we want to remain within the law.”

The decision to cut internet access, according to the communications ministry, was to prevent “hateful” and “subversive” messages online, which could provoke further unrest.

“Senegalese authorities continue to display utter disregard for peaceful dissent,” said Samira Daoud, Amnesty International’s regional director for West and Central Africa, who called for an investigation into “the lethal use of force against protesters.”

France has reacted to the protests, calling on Senegal to employ a “proportionate” response to protests, and for authorities to “hold the presidential poll as soon as possible.”

The United States Embassy in Senegal also reacted to the situation, posting on the X social media platform that Senegalese authorities should “fully respect” the right to protest.

According to a spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, it is “extremely important that all Senegalese have their right to demonstrate peacefully respected,” adding that the situation should be “resolved through established constitutional means.”

The United Nations, while expressing concern about the use of force against protesters, has called for an independent probe into the three deaths.

Some information for this report came from Reuters and Agence France-Presse.

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