Violence erupted in Senegal’s capital Dakar on Thursday after a court sentenced firebrand opposition leader Ousmane Sonko to two years in jail for “corrupting youth,” a move that dims his hopes of contesting next year’s presidential election. At least nine people were killed during the clashes between riot police and protesters in Senegal who threw rocks at the police and set buses on fire. The casualties were made known by Interior Minister Antoine Diome in a late-night news conference after a day of violence across the country. The southern city of Ziguinchor, where Sonko is the mayor, was worst hit by the clashes.
Mr. Diome said that social media, such as Facebook and WhatsApp, had been blocked.
The prison term, which was handed down in his absence - could prevent the opposition leader from contesting a presidential election next year.
The ruling means he was found to have acted immorally towards an individual younger than 21. The charges stemmed from allegations made by a massage therapist. He denied any wrongdoing.
The Senegalese government says it will take all necessary steps to protect people and property following the deadly unrest.