Senegal will never forget March 2021

Lethal use of force by defence and security forces

How it all began

Protests and violent clashes erupted in the country after Ousmane Sonko, a leading opposition figure, was arrested on 3 March and charged for disturbing public order and participating in an unauthorized demonstration while on his way to court to respond to a judicial subpoena for a separate criminal case.  

Fourteen people died in the context of the 5-day protests and riots. Twelve among them died due to gunshots fired by security and defence forces. A month after the events, the Senegalese authorities announced that an impartial commission would be put in place to investigate the deaths of the 14. However, one year later, no information was made available on judicial proceedings announced by authorities nor is it clear whether investigations were in fact opened. The people responsible for these deaths are likely still roaming freely. 

My son was only 20 years old

Cheikh Coly's father

It’s always a tragedy to lose a child whatever the circumstances. Cheikh Coly’s father had to bury his 20 years old son who had a bright future ahead of him. Discussing with Amnesty International, he tells us more about Cheikh and how he found out about his tragic death.

Cheikh Coly was a student. He was studying to pass his baccalaureate as an independent candidate. I raised him according to my values ​​and was satisfied with him. He was my only boy and was 20 when he was killed in March 2021. He was a big football fan and had been admitted to a training center. Unfortunately, he had to return to Bignona because of the COVID-19 pandemic. When he was here, at home, he helped me with my work. I am a driver for the administration but also work as a plumber on the side and Cheikh helped me with those activities. Sometimes, he would do all the plumbing work because I was only available on Saturdays and Sundays for this side job. 

The day he died; a neighbor came home on his motorbike looking for me. When I came out to meet him, he told me that Cheikh was hit by a bullet. I thought at first that it was just a small scratch. The neighbor took me to the fire station where Cheikh was supposed to be. When I arrived there and asked to see my son, they told me that they had already transferred him to the Bignona health district. When I asked the paramedic who transported him how Cheikh was, he only urged me to get to the Bignona health district. 

When I arrived at the hospital, in front of the big gate, I heard people whispering, “his father is here, his father is here”. From the look on their faces, I could tell his injury was worse than I thought. I met with the doctor who only told me that Cheikh was at the hospital. I followed the doctor to a room where I finally saw Cheikh. I saw my son’s lifeless body. A bullet had gone through his heart. I saw it with my own eyes at the hospital. 

After seeing his corpse, I just wanted to bring him back with me. The doctor then told me that I had to wait for the security forces to come and release the body. They took Cheikh’s body to the morgue. No one called me to follow up on the matter. It took a week and a lot of hassle to get his body back. I went to see the Prefect in order to complain about the situation and let him know we wanted to have a burial and be able to mourn him.  The Prefect indicated that it all fell under the Prosecutor’s purview and that there wasn’t much he could do. That upset me, and I started protesting. They finally let us have his corpse a week later. They kept his body from us for all that time, but they did not even perform an autopsy.  

You’ve killed the kid.

One witness to the soldier who fired

A team of investigators from the gendarmerie once came to interview me in March 2021, and since then there has been no follow-up regarding the investigation into his murder.  

I later learned, thanks to witnesses who spoke to me on their own, that my son Cheikh was on his motorbike when he was killed. And it was the security forces who shot him. One of the witnesses explained that when he saw that Cheikh was hit by a bullet, he told to the shooter: “You’ve killed the kid”.  

We were invited once in Dakar to meet with authorities including minister Mahmoud Saleh, President Macky Sall’s Chief of Staff. I used the occasion to tell them how much the death of our children has pained us. Those children were very dear to us. The authorities didn’t say much to us in return. And since that meeting, nothing has evolved. The authorities have ignored us and haven’t returned our calls or texts. 

There was no legal action. It’s horrible. We have a lot of questions.

Cheikh's Father

After Cheikh’s death, it was very difficult to come to terms with his loss. The day Cheikh died, my daughter, the one who comes after Cheikh, was at school. When she came back home around noon, she saw all the people in the house and was wondering what had happened. When people told her that her elder brother was dead, she fainted on the spot. She had to be taken to the dispensary. Since that day, she has been having issues with her heart. The family can’t make peace with Cheikh’s death. We can’t mourn him fully because there is no justice, no compensation. The authorities have done nothing.  

Cheikh used to say to me “Father, it is my foot that will build you a beautiful house, that will take you on pilgrimage [to Mecca] and buy you a beautiful car”. He was referring to his promising football career. He was a very good player. I miss my son, Cheikh Ibrahima Coly immensely. His whole family misses him. 

demand #Justiceforthe14

Senegalese authorities must quit stalling and bring to justice those responsible for the deaths of the 14 people killed during the March 2021 protests. #JusticePourLes14


Baye Cheikh Diop's father

The families of the 14 people killed in Senegal in March 2021 are experiencing unsurmountable grief. Baye Cheikh Diop’s father is still waiting for promised justice and reparations.

Baye Cheikh was my eldest son. He was a 16-year-old young mechanic and was working that day in their workshop when he was shot dead. 

In April 2021, Mahmoud Saleh, President Macky Sall’s Chief of Staff, and others met with us to ask us to prone the peace and not to go into confrontation with the authorities. He also told us that the State was going to seek justice for us. But since that day, we haven’t heard from them, and they don’t pick up when we call. 

His birthday was just a few days later. He would have been 17.

Baye Cheikh Diop's father

We did not file a complaint to preserve the peace and avoid confrontations. We can’t fight against the authorities. We placed our trust in the mediators and the religious authorities and thus expected that the authorities would do right by us and give us justice. 

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It's been a year since the tragic death of Baye Cheikh Diop, a young mechanic, killed while at work, with a bullet in the head. Authorities promised justice but are failing to deliver it. #JusticePourLes14

“Wrong place, wrong time”

Famara Goudiaby was a 20 years old student and just passed his exam to enter the university. He went back to his native village to take care of administrative formalities pursuant to his higher education. On his way back, he decided to pay a visit to his sister who lives in Bignona. He was killed by a stray bullet as he was walking to his sister’s house. Famara was not a protester.

time for justice to be served

Unlawful killings must never go unpunished. Families of people who died need justice urgently. It’s been a year too long without justice or accountability. #JusticePourLes14

My brother Cheikh was killed by a police officer while protesting. Nearly a year on, justice has yet to be served.

Ngoné Wade, Cheikh's twin sister

8 March 2021 remains a painful memory for Cheikh Wade’s family, whom a delegation of Amnesty International, met in the neighbourhood of Cambéréne, in the Dakar suburbs. His mother Marieme** is still affected by the brutal death of her youngest son, and desperately waiting for justice to be served. For nearly a year now, human rights organizations have been standing together with the family to say no to impunity. As part of its campaign “Join us in demanding justice for the victims of Senegal’s violent repression of protests”, Amnesty International is mobilizing its members to ensure that the perpetrators of Cheikh Wade’s murder are identified and held accountable, and that peaceful protest is no longer synonymous with the risk of death.

In an op-ed published on Cheikh’s birthday, Ngoné Wade, his twin sister, calls on the authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Read the full op-ed and know more about Cheikh’s family’s fight for justice

Today is 4 February and we should have been celebrating our 33rd birthdays together but you are no longer with us!
Cheikh, my twin brother, you were one of the 14 young Senegalese who were killed in March 2021 during the protests that followed the arrest of Ousmane Sonko, a leader of the opposition. This period was marked by protests, scenes of looting, destruction of property, and clashes between demonstrators and security forces in several cities around Senegal.


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