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Senegal deploys troops to capital as Dakar braces for more unrest

 Senegal deploys troops to capital as Dakar braces for more unrest

Army troops were deployed to parts of the Senegalese capital Dakar on Friday as the city braced for more unrest after a jail sentence for opposition leader Ousmane Sonko sparked one of the deadliest days of violence in the country’s recent memory.

Nine people were killed in clashes between riot police and Sonko supporters on Thursday after he was sentenced to two years for corrupting youth. The opposition says the verdict, which could prevent Sonko from running in elections next year, was politically motivated.

Security forces patrolled streets, which were quiet on Friday but strewn with burned cars, rocks and broken glass and lined with damaged residences and businesses. Large groups of students were bused out of the university campus.

The army was deployed to reinforce security, government spokesperson Abdou Karim Fofana said.

Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar was the epicentre of Thursday’s violence, with protesters setting buses alight and throwing rocks at riot police, who responded by firing tear gas.

One student, Alioune Ndiaye, said he planned to travel hundreds of miles to his home in eastern Senegal to escape the violence.

“Yesterday was difficult and violent,” he said, heading for the campus gate with a backpack full of belongings. The bitter stench of tear gas still hung in the air.

“My main concern is that the school year could be cancelled.”

Thursday’s riot was the latest bout in months of protests in Senegal, long considered one of West Africa‘s strongest democracies, sparked by Sonko’s court case but also over concerns that President Macky Sall will try to bypass the two-term limit and run again in February elections.

Sall has neither confirmed nor denied this.

Sonko’s PASTEF party has called in a statement for citizens to “stop all activity and take to the streets”.

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