A crackdown by police against Senegalese citizens who gathered in the capital Dakar on 30 March to protest the high cost of living was “brutal”, say human rights groups.
"The interior ministry or at least the police force believe that maintaining order means stepping up repression," Leonard Vincent, Africa director of the Paris-based group Reporters Without Borders, told IRIN.
Police used tear gas and batons to disperse a demonstration organised by the national consumers' union to protest recent hikes in the prices of rice, oil and soap.
Authorities in Dakar said the demonstration had not been authorised. At least 24 people were arrested and many are still being detained, according to the Agence France Press.
The Dakar-based African human rights coalition RADDHO (Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme) said in a statement on 30 March that it firmly condemns "unspeakable" acts by security forces which "violate" people's rights.
It likened alleged beatings with electric prods to "torture" and called for an investigation into "all acts of violence and poor treatment suffered by demonstrators".
Those police responsible should be arrested and punished, according to the RADDO statement.
Security forces also allegedly brutalised journalists and confiscated cameramen’s video. "Erasing pictures of clashes and preventing them from being shown on TV is not an effective way of keeping order," Reporters Without Borders said in a 31 March statement.
People across West Africa, and elsewhere in the world, have taken to the streets to protest price hikes in fuel, staple foods and other basic necessities.[LINK]
Opposition political leader Abdoulaye Bathily recently told reporters that rising poverty and a disregard for human rights has made Senegal "a bomb that could explode at any moment."
The government spokesman Bacar Dia said shortly before the riots that the high cost of living was a global phenomenon and accused opposition political parties of urging youths to break the law by taking to the streets in an illegal march.
Dia could not be reached for comment on the latest charges of brutality by the police.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions
It was The New Humanitarian’s investigation with the Thomson Reuters Foundation that uncovered sexual abuse by aid workers during the Ebola response in the Democratic Republic of Congo and led the World Health Organization to launch an independent review and reform its practices.
This demonstrates the important impact that our journalism can have.
But this won’t be the last case of aid worker sex abuse. This also won’t be the last time the aid sector has to ask itself difficult questions about why justice for victims of sexual abuse and exploitation has been sorely lacking.
We’re already working on our next investigation, but reporting like this takes months, sometimes years, and can’t be done alone.
The support of our readers and donors helps keep our journalism free and accessible for all. Donations mean we can keep holding power in the aid sector accountable, and shine a light on similar abuses.