​The TikTok logo is seen on a mobile device in this illustration photo in Warsaw, Poland on 14 July, 2023.

The TikTok logo is seen on a mobile device in this illustration photo in Warsaw, Poland on 14 July, 2023.

Photo by Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Senegal Blocks TikTok, Escalates Clampdown on Dissent

Senegal tightens grip as government blocks TikTok and dissolves opposition party amidst escalating protests and leader's arrest.

Senegalese authorities have taken the step to block access to the popular social media app TikTok, intensifying their crackdown on dissent just days after the dissolution of the country's main opposition party and the arrest of its leader.

Tensions have been escalating due to a power struggle between Ousmane Sonko, the leader of the opposition Pastef party, and President Macky Sall, leading to occasionally violent demonstrations, the most recent being on Monday. These developments have raised concerns about Senegal's reputation as the most stable democracy in West Africa, considering the wave of military coups witnessed in the region over the past three years, including one in Niger just a week ago.

On Monday, Senegal dissolved the Pastef party and restricted access to internet services, citing potential threats to the country's stability. Now, the authorities have extended the restrictions to TikTok, with Communications Minister Moussa Bocar Thiam stating that the app is being used to disseminate "hateful and subversive messages."

The recent arrest of Ousmane Sonko on charges of plotting an insurrection and other offenses has further fueled opposition protests throughout the year. Supporters of the opposition leader accuse President Sall of using the charges to disqualify Sonko from the 2024 presidential election, an accusation the government denies, placing the blame on Sonko and the Pastef party for inciting violence.

The situation escalated on Monday night when two people were killed during opposition protests in the southern city of Ziguinchor, where Sonko serves as mayor. The violence continued on Tuesday with an attack on a passenger bus that resulted in the deaths of two individuals in Dakar. However, no clear link has been established between this attack and the protests against Sonko's detention.

Amnesty International has condemned the restrictions on internet access, calling it an "attack on freedom of information," and called on the authorities to restore access to the internet.

This is not the first time that Ousmane Sonko has faced legal trouble, as he has already received two other convictions. Legal experts suggest that with this third case, he could face a prison sentence ranging from five to 20 years. His previous conviction in June 2023 led to widespread unrest in Senegal, resulting in sixteen deaths according to the authorities, and around thirty according to the opposition.