Young people express their frustration and discontent with perceived injustice in Senegal.

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Youth Anger and Suspicions of Injustice in Senegal

The recent violent demonstrations in Senegal, triggered by the imprisonment of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, have left many young people feeling enraged. The clashes escalated to the point where the authorities deployed the army. Tragically, nine individuals lost their lives on Thursday, and six more on Friday during the protests. Sonko, who received a two-year sentence, now faces potential disqualification from running in the upcoming presidential election.

Belief in a Plot Against Sonko

In Senegal, there is a widespread belief that the rape charges brought against Sonko were fabricated by the government to remove him from the election race. This suspicion seemed to be confirmed for some when the court announced the verdict, changing the charges to finding him guilty of “corrupting” a young woman. The case has deeply divided the West African nation. Sonko, who was tried in absentia, is yet to be taken into custody to serve his jail term, which may further exacerbate tensions.

Perceived Injustice Fuels Protests

The severity of Sonko’s sentence, and the perceived injustice surrounding it, drove many people to take to the streets. Aliou Faye, a 25-year-old resident, asserted that President Macky Sall “wants to put an end to their hopes for a better life in Senegal.” The town of Rufisque, located outside Dakar, still bears the scars of the violence, with fires burning and rocks scattered about. The area’s shops remain closed, and the express train line, a major development project, has been shut down since Thursday.

Youth Unrest and Call for Change

The frustrated youth in Senegal are demanding change. Demba Faye, also 25, explains, “Times are hard. There’s no work, no money, and the cost of living is high.” However, Faye did not participate in the protests, opting instead to wait for the election to choose his candidate. Half of the country’s 18 million population is under the age of 18, highlighting the significant impact of these issues on the younger generation. The main university campus in Dakar witnessed substantial destruction during the prolonged clashes.

Challenges in the Job Market

Finding employment in Senegal is a considerable challenge for graduates. Aida Camara, a marketing graduate, is struggling to secure a job. The market can only accommodate 26,000 new job-seekers annually, whereas there are approximately 300,000 individuals entering the job market each year. Tamba Danfakha, a project support worker, notes that President Sall has initiated various projects aimed at providing employment opportunities for young people. While thousands have joined the public sector or private companies backed by state funding, the demand still far exceeds the available opportunities.

Promises, Projects, and Unrest

President Sall has made promises of tapping into the country’s new oil and gas resources by the end of 2023. However, Sonko has accused the government of entering contracts with foreign companies that jeopardize national assets. Along the motorway leading to the suburban district of Parcelles Assainies in Dakar, fires have been lit near the future Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) site, another project initiated by Sall. The infrastructure, intended to alleviate traffic congestion in the capital, has yet to be commissioned and was vandalized during the protests.

SOURCE: Ref – Dakar AFP

Images: Google images

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