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SENEGAL – Barthélémy Dias: «That day, I was forced to fight for my life»

Barthelemy Dias

Interview conducted by Jeune Afrique

Sentenced in 2017 to six months for fatal blows, the candidate for mayor of Dakar returns for JA on December 22, 2011, when a shootout opposed him to nerds sent by the ruling party.

At the time, I was in charge of socialist youth and fought against the third term of President Abdoulaye Wade. The tennsions were lively, the election was going to be eventful. On 22 December 2011, in the late morning, I was in my office at City Hall when I received a visit from individuals sent and transported by the then ruling Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS). They’ve surrounded the building.
As the town hall is at a dead end, I could not escape. I called the police, who did everything to disperse them, in vain. When I realized that law enforcement couldn’t get them to leave, I went out with a member of my security detail. I was still the mayor of the commune, I could not flee in front of thugs! And that day, I was forced to fight for my life.

I had one gun and two dummy guns. I may have emptied three or four magazines. It wasn’t warning shots, because the people in front of me were armed as well. The shooting lasted almost half an hour. I could have been touched, but I guess my time had not come. And then the nerds of the PDS took the powder.

“My rights have been violated”
I would remind the House that, at the time, the authorities were not involved in diplomacy. Many politicians had also been attacked: Alioune Tine, Moustapha Niasse, Ousmane Tanor Dieng… But they had gone to visit the grandfathers! Then when they arrived at my house, they found a young man, like them. I know they didn’t come to bring me a birthday invitation! I knew that day would come, that I would be attacked sooner or later, because my name often came up in the meetings of the staffs and that I embodied in their eyes the hard wing of the opposition. When we have more arguments to oppose, we choose the argument of force.

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“From my cell, I called for Macky Sall to vote but, in hindsight, I regret it
Someone was shot during the shooting. Instead of being taken to the hospital by his friends, he was taken to the PDS headquarters. The investigation established that. I should point out that I was not assaulted by PDS activists or executives, but by young boys from the suburbs, recruited for 10,000 or 15,000 FCFA.

Afterwards, Macky Sall himself came to my house, alongside my father [the advisor to President Jean-Paul Dias], to defend me and to remind me that this aggression was inadmissible in a rule of law. I was unjustly imprisoned, my rights were violated.

Sword of Damocles
From my cell, I called Macky Sall to vote, but in hindsight, I regret it. We didn’t fight for it. I was finally tried in 2017, and you will notice that this is when I supported Khalifa Sall’s candidacy in the presidential election. I was then sentenced to six months in prison. For the murder of a person! Do you know of a serious country where a person is sentenced to six months in prison for murder? I was sentenced to a sentence that I have already served and yet I am the one who appealed. If I had been sentenced to a single day in prison, I would have challenged it.

Today, on the eve of local elections, the threat of a trial is being raised like a sword of Damocles over my head, but it will not work. The only person who is not supposed to vote today is Macky Sall. I am at peace with my conscience


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