Senegal opposition leader Ousmane Sonko was arrested on Wednesday. Since then, there have been daily protests with clashes between police and protesters.
At least three people are said to have lost their lives in connection with demonstrations in several places in Senegal. The unrest in the capital Dakar is described as the worst in several years in the usually stable country.
“The secretary general is very concerned about the violence we have seen in Dakar and other parts of Senegal,” Guterres spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters.
– His appeal is very clear that everyone in Senegal must avoid further escalation of the situation, Dujarric said on Friday.
Sonko was first charged with rape, an accusation he rejects. He was later arrested and charged with disturbing peace and order.
On Friday, a court decided to hold Sonko in custody in connection with the charge related to peace and order. On Monday, he will return to court in connection with the rape charge.
Challenges the president
Sonko is popular with young people in Senegal and is seen as an important challenger to incumbent President Macky Sall.
Sonko’s supporters had called for new demonstrations in connection with Friday’s court hearing. Police in riot gear stormed a rally on Friday, removing hundreds of protesters by truck. Several of the protesters threw objects at the security forces and set fire to car tires and other things near the court in Dakar.
The protests have become increasingly violent in the last couple of days, and there has also been looting and arson of shops and petrol stations.
On Thursday, two private TV stations were closed for 72 hours by the authorities. They are accused of inciting public unrest by showing content that “explicitly or implicitly” defends violence.
Access to messaging services such as WhatsApp, Facebook and YouTube was limited on Friday, according to NetBlocks.
Calls for peaceful protest
One person was killed on Thursday when police clashed with protesters in Bignona in the Casamance region of the country, according to regional leaders there. Another was killed in the Pikine area of Dakar on Thursday, according to the radio station Tfm, and a third person was killed in the suburb of Keur Massar the same day.
Guterres requests that the demonstrations take place peacefully, and that security forces allow the demonstrators to speak out.