Senegalese authorities barred access to the social media app TikTok on Wednesday, broadening a crackdown on dissent only days after dissolving the major opposition party and detaining its head.
A power battle between Pastef party head Ousmane Sonko and President Macky Sall has resulted in violent protests at times, most notably on Monday, and has harmed Senegal’s status as West Africa’s most stable democracy.
During the previous three years, the area has seen a surge of military coups, including one in Niger just a week ago.
Senegal disbanded Pastef and limited internet access on Monday, claiming dangers to the country’s stability. Its communications minister used a similar rationale to shut down TikTok.
“The TikTok application is used by people with bad intentions to spread hateful and subversive messages,” Moussa Bocar Thiam said in a statement on Wednesday.
Abdou Dione, a Dakar resident, believes the authorities should not stop TikTok simply for bad reasons.
“It’s an application where you can learn a lot as well as see vulgar things,” Dione explained.
According to Papis Gaye, young street sellers are using applications like WhatsApp as part of their online sales.
“So taking the decision to cut off the internet means prohibiting us from selling,” Gaye explained.
“I’d have to use the VPN just to connect, but it’s a pain.” Finally, you’re exhausted and disheartened.”
Makhtar Ndiaga Sarr, another Dakar resident, said he couldn’t buy shoes on Tuesday because the internet was down and his brother couldn’t give him the money.
Charges of Inciting Violence
Sonko was arrested and accused of planning an insurgency and other charges on Saturday.
Opposition supporters have accused Sall of pressing allegations in order to exclude Sonko from a presidential election scheduled for next year.
The administration rejects this, accusing Sonko and Pastef of inciting violence.
Two people were murdered in opposition rallies in the southern city of Ziguinchor, where Sonko is mayor, on Monday night, and two more were slain on Tuesday when assailants threw petrol bombs onto a passenger bus.
After Sonko was sentenced to two years in jail for immoral behaviour towards minors under the age of 21, riots erupted across Senegal in June, killing at least 16 people. He has yet to begin serving that sentence.
Sonko, who maintains his innocence, had asked his supporters to go to the streets at the moment.
Sall ended months of suspense when he said he would not run for a third term as president next year, which detractors claimed would be unlawful. His party has yet to choose its candidate for the election.