Senegal's protest-hit capital wakes to looted shops and debris
A boy walks inside a ransacked supermarket Auchan, after Senegal opposition leader Ousmane Sonko was sentenced to prison in Dakar, Senegal June 3, 2023. Reuters

Streets filled with rubble and ransacked shops greeted residents of some Dakar neighbourhoods on Saturday - fallout from clashes between anti-government protesters and police that have gripped Senegal in recent days.

Most of the capital appeared quiet on Saturday, but tensions were running high after two days of violent unrest in several cities that has killed at least ten people, wreaked untold damage, and alarmed Senegal's neighbours and allies.

Angry over the sentencing on Thursday of populist opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, crowds have taken to the streets, starting fires and throwing rocks at security forces as they heed his party's call to stand up to the authorities.

Mobs smashed windows and looted at least two gas station shops overnight in Dakar's Ouakam and Ngor districts, while an Auchan supermarket in densely populated Grand Yoff was torched and ransacked. Rubble littered the roads that were scarred black by fires.

"The police couldn't do anything, there were too many of them. The police had to leave after several attempts to control the crowd with tear-gas grenades", said resident Khadija by the Auchan whose interior was gutted and strewn with broken shelves, mud and trash.

The government has enlisted the army to back up the many riot police still stationed around the city. Over a dozen soldiers guarded the trashed gas station in Ouakam on Saturday, as some shop owners tentatively opened their doors, although streets were unusually empty.

Abdou Ndiaye, the owner of a nearby corner shop said he had closed early the two previous days and opened late on Saturday, fearful of the unrest that he said was the worst he'd seen in the area in his 15 years of business.

"We are so scared because you don't know when the crowds will come, and when they come they take ... your goods, they are thieves," he said in his storeroom that was stacked with sacks of food and household items.

"There are people who demonstrate but there are others who do whatever they want."

The unrest is the latest in a string of protests in Senegal, long considered one of West Africa's most stable democracies. They are triggered by anger over court cases against Sonko that could prevent him from running in elections next year. He denies wrongdoing and says they are politically motivated. The authorities deny this.

The opposition is also concerned that President Macky Sall will try to bypass the two-term limit and run again in February elections.