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Senegalese man warned of gun violence the day he was shot dead in riots

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By Edward McAllister & Diadie Ba

Elhaji Cissê was busy on Friday, the day he was killed, tweeting hundreds of times as riots erupted beyond the walls of his compound in a busy suburb of Senegal’s capital Dakar.

In one post, the 26-year-old student warned his 1,700 followers about security forces firing live rounds at protesters. In another, he shared first aid tips for people wounded on the streets.

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Offline he helped too, showing elderly neighbours how to ease their discomfort from inhaling mouthfuls of tear gas, said his younger brother Djimbala Ba.

“He spent his time in the service of others,” said Ba, 24, who burst into tears during an interview at the home where he and his brother used to share a bed in a small side room. “He was a good patriot.”

At around 9pm on Friday, after a bowl of couscous and milk, Cissé braved the short walk to a mosque to pray as security forces and rioters clashed nearby, said Ba, and another friend, Cheikh Ndiaye.

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Minutes later, he was shot.

Sixteen people have died in the deadliest unrest in Senegal in decades, triggered by a prison sentence handed down to opposition leader Ousmane Sonko that could rule him out of presidential elections in February. Sonko denies wrongdoing.

His supporters say the charges were politically motivated and have taken to the streets in their thousands, hurling rocks at security forces, setting cars and buildings alight and ransacking supermarkets and gas stations.

Police have responded with tear gas and what rights groups have described as excessive force. Five hundred people have been arrested, the government says.

Security forces deny firing on protesters or using excessive force.

Fatal outing

Cissé had planned to study in Canada, Ba said. He often sported the jersey of his favourite football team, Real Madrid.

As the riots intensified on Friday, he spent hours on his phone in the Grand Yoff neighbourhood firing off tweets railing against a partial Internet shutdown.

His profile became a mirror of the chaos and anger that brewed outside. In one of his last posts, just before 6pm, he pleaded to Twitter owner Elon Musk to help reconnect people in Senegal to the web.

About three hours later, Cissé was returning from the mosque when he was shot in the shoulder a few yards from home, Ba, Ndiaye and two other friends said.

A video on TikTok shows what they say is Cissé lying motionless on the ground as a man tries to apply pressure to his upper arm. A crowd then carries him towards a hospital.

A friend showed Reuters the spot where Cissé was killed. A patch of sand appeared to be clotted by dried blood.

Ba was confused when doctors at the hospital told him Cissé was dead.

“We thought, it’s not possible. He was shot in the arm, how has he gone from that?”

The family awaits the results of an autopsy.

Ba and Ndiaye said he was shot by security forces. Reuters was unable to confirm this. A police spokesman and the local hospital did not respond to requests for comment.

Ba is not as political as his older brother was. Still, he blames the unrest on President Macky Sall and what he says is his serial sidelining of political opponents. Many feel Sall has failed to alleviate poverty or help the young.

“It is because of Sall that we are here now,” Ba said.

Hundreds of mourners gathered as Cisse’s body was carried through the neighbourhood on Monday. An imam spoke of his devoutness, a friend of his reliability.

At sunset, he was taken to a large cemetery near the ocean, the outline of his body visible beneath a shroud as friends laid him down in the shade of a pine tree.

Meanwhile, Ba struggles with the hole his brother left.

“We passed every day together, we watched all the football games together. It is impossible to forget.”

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