It has been confirmed that since Friday, 5 March 2021, Senegal has experienced an internet and social media shutdown. This is amidst ongoing protests by citizens in the West African country.

The protests which intensified in Senegal's capital, Dakar, have been going on for several days after the arrest of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko.

"Network data from the NetBlocks Internet Observatory confirm the disruption of social media and messaging apps in Senegal as of Friday 5 March 2021. Metrics show that Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, and some Telegram servers were restricted on leading cellular network operator Orange/Sonatel as of early morning Friday. Affected services have subsequently been restored from 7:30 a.m. UTC," reads a statement by NetBlocks.

Sonko accused of rape

It all started in February 2021 when a masseuse at a massage parlor told Senegalese police that a client, Ousmane Sonko, had raped her. According to the charges as confirmed by Senegal's President, Macky Sall, when the masseuse resisted Sonko's advances, the opposition leader threatened to kill her.

Sonko has denied raping the masseuse and has instead said that he visited the massage parlor to get relief from his back pain. Furthermore, Sonko, who positioned third in Senegal's 2019 presidential elections, has accused President Sall of trying to sabotage his political career.

Of greater concern is also that protestors have ignored the alleged victim's claims of rape and have instead accused her of being influenced by politicians to target Sonko.

📷 Key moments in the #FreeSenegal protests so far.

Protestors clash with Senegalese police

Following Sonko's arrest on 3 March 2021, protestors took to the streets on 4 March and intensified their protests against President Sall and his government. Also using the #FreeSenegal slogan on social media, protestors expressed their grievances against the sitting government and calling for the release of Sonko.

As a result, one protestor was shot and killed by police as they resorted to using live ammunition to try and control the crowds of protestors who had resorted to also torching vehicles in the streets of Dakar.

Sonko has also been accused of inciting "public disturbance" as he is due to appear in court in Dakar on Monday, 8 March to answer his charges.

The internet shutdown remains in place at the time of publishing.

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