When rumours spread that a male student had hit on a classmate in the showers of Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar, all hell broke loose. A mob formed to track down the suspected homosexual, causing serious damage to buildings on the campus.
The events took place last Tuesday on the campus of Dakar’s main university. Amateur videos that later circulated on social media showed a group of students harassing a young man in the campus locker rooms. The students accused him of having hit on another man in the campus showers.
“You homosexual!” they yell, telling the accused to show his face to the camera. Before he manages to escape, one of his assailants jeers: “Am I dreaming or what? This bastard is crying!”
"Because they didn’t catch the young man, his assailants burned down buildings and ransacked a bank”
We saw a hoard of young people gathering on a part of campus where there’s a bank and a restaurant. They were screaming “We are going to kill him!” The young man who was being chased hid inside the offices of the head of campus security. The mob wanted him to come out and there was a heated exchange between them and the security personnel.
The bank decided to evacuate its staff until the police arrived. The police fired teargas to disperse the students so the young man could come out. The angry students went on to burn down the buildings belonging to the campus security guards. They also destroyed the ATM outside the bank as well as the bank’s signs. They openly criticized security guards for “helping a homosexual” man flee.
Unfortunately, we are quite accustomed to mobs breaking out on campus [Editor’s note: clashes break out between the police and Dakar’s university students for diverse reasons, ranging from politics to minor news items]. But in the ten years I’ve worked here, this is the first time that I’ve seen students actually go after the bank and the security guards.
On Thursday, the body in charge of coordinating university student social services in Dakar [Editor’s note: Called the Centre des œuvres universitaires de Dakar, or Coud] published a statement about the events.
"Armed with iron bars and clubs, [the students] ransacked furniture and material and knocked over plates filled with food at Sinkou restaurant. They also stole mobile phones and molested restaurant staff. Eight students were transported to a medical centre, two of whom were seriously injured. We are still wondering what link there is between the question of 'homosexuality' and destroying property.”
The statement said that a bailiff came to file a report on the damages and that a formal complaint was filed against X.
"This is the ninth time something like this has taken place at Cheikh Anta Diop University in the past four years"
Simply being gay is punished by up to five years in prison and fines of up to 1.5 million Francs CFA (about € 2,286). Even just hitting on someone can land you in prison for attempted homosexual relations.
Last October, Senegalese President Macky Sall told French news channel iTELE that the country was not yet ready to "decriminalise homosexuality".
Djamil Bangoura is president of Prudence, an organisation that defends the LGBT community in Senegal. He tried to reach out the victim of the mob, but was unsuccessful.
This isn’t the first time that a mob has gone after someone suspected of being gay at Cheikh Anta Diop University. Since 2012, we’ve counted nine similar cases. Some of these students dropped out of school because of these events. These mobs are often sparked by mere suspicions or rumours that someone is gay, not by facts.
For awhile, we ran awareness campaigns on campus but we stopped because the reactions were too hostile. Some of our student members are too afraid to continue to come to our meetings.
Even if we encourage them to accept themselves, we also encourage them to hide their sexuality and to be careful about how they dress and act.