Senegal shuts consulates abroad amid attacks and political tensions

Senegal shuts consulates abroad amid attacks and political tensions
People walk past a bus shelter shattered during clashes between protesters and  security forces

People walk past a bus shelter shattered during clashes between protesters and security forces

DAKAR, June 9 (NNN-AGENCIES) — Senegal’s foreign ministry announced it was temporarily closing its overseas consulates amid raging political tensions that have fuelled attacks on its diplomatic missions in Paris, Bordeaux, Milan and New York.

Deadly protests broke out last week in the Senegalese capital Dakar and other cities, following the sentencing of popular opposition leader Ousmane Sonko.

Several days of rioting left at least 16 people dead and hundreds injured as Sonko’s supporters clashed with security forces.

The fallout from the crisis has reverberated abroad with the Senegalese diaspora leading demonstrations at the country’s consulates overseas.

Its foreign ministry says it is taking a “precautionary measure” to shut its diplomatic missions in France, Italy and the United States for the time being, following a “series of attacks.”

The Senegalese consulate in Milan was the worst hit, the ministry said, noting that “machines used to produce passports and national identity cards were destroyed.”

It added that services will resume at the consulates “as soon as the material and security conditions allow it.”

More than 40 protesters believed to be Sonko’s supporters converged on the Senegalese consulate in Milan on Monday, Italian public broadcaster RAI reported, adding that the consulate building was looted and the Consul General Mamadou Lamine Diouf was attacked.

Calm has slowly returned to the Senegalese capital after the deadly clashes, the country’s Red Cross said.

“Only one case of the demonstration was noted in Malika in the Dakar suburbs,” said Nfaly Sadio of the Senegalese Red Cross.

“For the total number of wounded rescued by the Red Cross, it was 357,” he said.

Tensions, however, remain high and there are fears the protests could flare up again as uncertainty swirls around Sonko’s sentencing which could jeopardize his chances of running in next year’s presidential race.

Sonko has yet to be arrested after being convicted last week of “corrupting youth” which according to the country’s penal code is “immoral behaviour” towards a person younger than 21. He was absent from court as the sentence was handed down Thursday.

He was cleared of a rape charge and death threats against an employee of a massage parlour.

Justice Minister Ismaila Madior Fall told Senegalese media that the state is prepared to arrest the opposition leader once it gets the nod from the country’s prosecution office. The arrest could happen at any time, he added.

Businesses were gradually re-opening in the capital city Dakar where public and private buildings were destroyed as demonstrators clashed with riot police.

Other troubled cities hit by the deadly clashes are also returning to normalcy, local media reported. — NNN-AGENCIES


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