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Ahead of planned march over vote delay, Senegal suspends internet access

Ahead of planned march over vote delay, Senegal suspends internet access
Senegal's President Macky Sall speaks during a media conference at an EU Africa summit in Brussels, Friday, Feb. 18, 2022.   -  
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Johanna Geron/AP


Senegal's Ministry of Communications instructed mobile operators to halt internet access on Tuesday, just before a planned silent march organized by activist groups.

The march, which had been prohibited by authorities, was intended to protest the sudden postponement of a presidential election scheduled for February 25.

The announcement of the postponement, made only weeks before the planned vote, led to violent clashes last week resulting in the deaths of three individuals and numerous arrests.

Despite Parliament's decision to reschedule the election for December 15, concerns have arisen among opposition members regarding the extension of President Macky Sall's mandate, marking a departure from Senegal's democratic norms.

The fate of the march remains uncertain following its ban by authorities on Monday, citing logistical challenges. A press conference is scheduled later on Tuesday, where civil society and religious groups behind the demonstration will reveal their next course of action, according to spokesperson Amadou Samb.

The postponement of the vote has elicited widespread disappointment in Senegal, known as one of West Africa's more stable democracies. This sentiment is particularly significant within a region where democratic institutions have faced challenges due to military takeovers and constitutional manipulations in recent years.

The Ministry attributed the recent violence and property damage during protests to hateful online messages. In the capital city of Dakar, riot police clad in protective gear deployed tear gas, stun grenades, and apparent rubber bullets against demonstrators who set fires and hurled stones. 

Amnesty International and the UN human rights office have urged the Senegalese government to investigate the killings and instances of police brutality against protesters. At least 266 individuals, including journalists, have been detained nationwide, as reported by Liz Throssell, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Responding to the political situation, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) dispatched a parliamentary diplomatic delegation to Senegal on Monday for discussions.

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