State of the Nation Reporter
Citizens in Senegal took to the streets to protest against the dusk to dawn curfew which was imposed three months ago by the government to contain the Covid 19 pandemic in the country.
The wave of protests have seen people setting tyres on fire in the streets and stoning security forces in Dakar on Wednesday night.
The unrest in Senegal’s capital followed similar action in the holy city of Touba a night earlier, where crowds of people torched an ambulance, threw rocks and looted office buildings.
Citizens who are participating in the protests are saying the prolonged lockdown is making life difficult for the ordinary people who are poor and cannot afford to live indoors for a long time without food.
Senegal’s government has not faced major opposition to its handling of the pandemic but the economy has been hard hit by measures like the overnight curfew and a ban on inter-regional travel.
Senegal has confirmed almost 4,000 cases of COVID-19, including 45 deaths. Dakar and Touba, which are both a trading hub and major pilgrimage destination, have been hardest hit.
The growing unrest in Dakar and Touba highlights a dilemma for many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, where measures to protect citizens’ health are also damaging the livelihoods of millions who work in the informal sector, stirring up tensions.
The government of Senegal has since deployed its military force to quench the unrest and also promised to ease the anti-coronavirus and lift restrictions on inter-city travel.
Interior Minister Aly Ngouille Ndiaye said the start of the 9:00 pm to 5:00 am curfew would be pushed back by two hours, to 11:00 pm.
“From today, transport restrictions across the country are being lifted, with the curfew being maintained from 11pm to 5am,” he said on state television.
“Gatherings in public or private places, restaurants, gyms, casinos will also benefit from these relaxation measures,” he said.
More than 200 people were arrested after demonstrations broke out in several cities, including the capital Dakar, according to interior ministry figures issued on Thursday.