Senegalese police fired tear gas to disperse stone-throwing protesters from a square in the capital Dakar on Monday, hours after the country’s opposition leader was charged with rape.
Thousands of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko’s supporters converged on a central square in the city, hurling stones at riot police who retaliated by firing tear gas.
Protesters waved the Senegalese flag and torched a car during the rally while denouncing the accusation against Sonko as politically motivated.
“We cannot allow [President] Macky Sall to flout democracy and imprison his opponents,” said Rama Diop, a 30-year-old protester. “Ousmane Sonko represents only a hope for a better future.”
Usually considered a beacon of stability in a volatile region, deadly clashes between opposition supporters and security forces have rocked the West African state since last week.
At least five people have died in nationwide unrest sparked on Wednesday by the arrest of Sonko, a sharp-tongued government critic who is popular with youth.
A court in Dakar freed Sonko from detention on Monday but also pressed charges in a rape case against him, which he says is politically motivated.
Sonko called for “much larger” protests but urged non-violence after days of deadly clashes in the West African state sparked by his recent arrest.