Senegal protests: 2 rappers arrested
17 February 2012, 14:51
Senegal - Police opened fire with tear gas on protesters who had gone
ahead with a sleep-in Thursday at a downtown square, even though the
government had banned the demonstration being held one week before the
country's presidential election.
It's the second day that
protesters have continued their demonstrations despite the government's
refusal to authorise the gathering. Senegalese police are allowed to use
force to break up crowds at unauthorised protests, as they did on
Wednesday to stop marchers who got within 500m of the presidential
The country's opposition is calling for the departure of
85-year-old President Abdoulaye Wade, who is insisting on running for a
third term in the February 26 election despite growing resistance from
the population as well as criticism from the international community.
Minister Ousmane Ngom defended the government's decision to ban the
protests even though the campaign season is in full swing, and the
ruling party is holding regular rallies. He told reporters on Thursday
that Senegal has a long democratic tradition, and pointed out that 3 050
demonstrations had been authorised last year, while only 245 - less
than 5%- were banned due to a threat to public order.
described the recent opposition demonstrations as "a crime spree by
vagrants" and said that they cannot be equated with campaign events
since most are not being organised by the candidates themselves.
sleep-in on Thursday was being organised by a group of rappers known as
Y'en a Marre, French for "We've had enough", which is allied with the
opposition but is not fielding a candidate in the election. Riot police
began pelting the group with tear gas, after protesters tried to light
tires on fire.
Security forces moved in and arrested Simon and
Kilifeu, two of the founders of the Y'en a Marre, who were led away to a
Ngom also said
that the police had recovered one pistol, explosives and several
molotov cocktails at recent demonstrations - which he said showed that
protesters had the intention of using violence.
Four people have
been killed in anti-Wade demonstrations over the past two weeks since
the country's highest court ruled that Wade could run for a third term,
even though the constitution was revised in 2001 to impose a two-term
The violence has been mild by comparison to recent
elections in Ivory Coast, Guinea and Nigeria where hundreds were killed.
But the unrest is rattling Senegal, a nation of 12 million on Africa's
western coast, which is considered the most stable democracy in the
Alioune Tine, the co-ordinator of M23, which represents a
dozen opposition candidates running against Wade in next week's
election, announced that they too would go ahead with demonstrations
Friday and Saturday despite the ban.
"Citizens need to come to
say 'No' to the violation of our constitution, and to demand the
unconditional rejection of president Wade's candidacy," said Tine. "I
want to remind the police that it is here to defend the republic. They
need to refuse to be used by the regime."
Unlike many countries
in Africa, Senegal has never experienced a coup or a military takeover.
The country is deeply proud of its democratic tradition, which dates to
the mid-1800s when the former French colony was given the right to elect
a deputy to the French parliament.
Most of its neighbours in
West Africa only began their democratic experiment in the 1960s after
independence from France, an experiment that was frequently hijacked by
the military. Guinea, for example, which shares a border with Senegal,
held its first democratic election in 2010.
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