US calls for 'democratic values' in Senegal after clashes


US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Photo credit: File I Nation Media Group


US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called for respect for democracy in a call with the leader of Senegal, where rare deadly clashes took place after the opposition leader's conviction.

In a telephone call with President Macky Sall, Blinken offered condolences after at least 16 people were killed in the unrest.

"I reiterated the United States' support for the Senegalese people and democratic values," Blinken, who is traveling in Saudi Arabia, wrote on Twitter.

The violence erupted last week after opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, a firebrand former tax inspector who has found a following among the young with talk against poverty and corruption, was sentenced to two years behind bars.

He was convicted for morally "corrupting" a young woman after escaping a more serious charge of rape. He and his supporters allege that the prosecution is aimed at taking him out of the running for elections next year.

Promote respect

State Department spokesman Vedant Patel declined to weigh in on the case, saying it was "the role of the Senegalese institutions to evaluate these allegations and evidence."

"As a friend and partner to the country, we will continue to promote respect for the rule of law and democratic principles," Patel told reporters.

Blinken traveled to Senegal in 2021 on his first trip to Africa as the top US diplomat, highlighting the historically stable West African country's record on democracy at a time that China is expanding influence in Africa.