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1 dead, 30 injured in wave of unrest in Senegal

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Violence during protests in the Ngor neighbourhood of the Senegalese capital, Dakar, has killed one teenager and wounded 30 people as young protesters took to the streets against an increasingly “repressive state”.

The city witnessed violent protests on Tuesday night when schoolchildren demanding a high school to be built instead of a police station were confronted by police in full gear.

“The government is not listening to us, the president is not listening to us, no one wants to help us, so we are expressing ourselves as we can,” a protester told Al Jazeera.

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Checkpoints and security officers were placed to prevent other residents and journalists from entering Ngor.

“We have to maintain operations to keep law and order to protect the population,” said Senegal’s government spokesperson Abdou Karim Fofana. “People should be able to demonstrate but people should also be able to go to work and to schools without being stopped by demonstrations,” Fofana said.

But residents of Ngor said police stormed their homes while they were sleeping to arrest and beat dozens of people.

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“This is not a political protest, and what is happening is incomprehensible to us we don’t understand. All we want is a high school, not a police station,” Souley Mbengue, deputy mayor of Ngor, stated.

The protest happened hours after a call by Senegalese opposition figure Ousmane Sonko for civil disobedience by his supporters following a court ruling that threatens his candidacy in upcoming presidential elections.

A court on Monday suspended Sonko’s sentence in a libel case that could make the popular politician ineligible to stand in the 2024 presidential vote – the latest twist in a long-running legal saga that has stoked further tensions in Dakar, already shaken by days of unrest.

“Nobody can prevent me from being a candidate,” Sonko said in a speech streamed online on Tuesday. “What happened yesterday is not a travesty of justice but judicial banditry. I repeat my call for resistance and ask the Senegalese to stand up and face Macky Sall,” he said.

Tuesday’s deadly demonstration and Sonko’s call for protests on Friday have further heightened tensions and poked holes in the longstanding image of a country largely viewed as one of the most stable democracies in West Africa.

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