Government mismanagement of natural resources prompts violent protest in Senegal
Several recent protests have been driven by alleged government mismanagement of natural resources and public services provision. In two instances, the Senegalese authorities used excessive force to quell citizen mobilisation.
On 14th October, a coalition of political opposition members called 'Mankoo Wattu' marched against the lack of transparency in the management of the recently discovered gas and oil in Senegal. At least 500 people turned out to protest but the mayor of Dakar banned the demonstration, citing a lack of agreement on the route for the march. Protesters were met by a large number of Senegalese security forces who were deployed to stop the protest. The situation escalated after authorities used tear gas to disperse crowds, which prompted activists to respond by throwing stones. The protest led to the arrest of five protesters and left 20 injured.
In the aftermath of the authorities' actions, Senegalese President Macky Sall blamed the violence on a 'misunderstanding'. In a statement to the press he said:
'I think there was a misunderstanding, in the future that the organisers should agree with the authorities concerned to avoid such situations...We are a democratic country or freedom of expression is guaranteed but lawlessness has no place here.'
Many activists alleged that the repression of the protests was due to president Sall's implication in the scandal.
In a separate incident on 18th October, merchants at the Thiaroye market led a march to demonstrate against the payment of an annual commercial tax. They do not want to pay the tax until the reconstruction of the main road which crosses the market. Traders were also angry with conditions within the market. This march was also violently disrupted by police using tear gas, eight people were arrested and several injured in clashes.