A Senegalese court on Monday sentenced two lawmakers for assaulting a female colleague during a heated debate on December 1.
The men – Amadou Niang and Massata Samb – who are both from the opposition bench in the House of Assembly, were given each six months in jail. As per the ruling, each men will also pay a 100,000 CFA francs CFA ($150) as fine, as well as a joint five million francs ($8,144) in damages to their victim.
The female MP, a member of President Macky Salls governing Benno Bokk Yakaar coalition, was beaten by her colleagues after she reportedly made insulting remarks against Serigne Moustapha Sy, the leader of a member of the main opposition coalition, the Party of Unity and Gathering, who is also an influential Islamic leader.
Mr Samb slapped Ndiaye in the face during a debate on a budget for the Justice Ministry. The female MP in response threw a chair at her attacker before she was pushed to the ground by another lawmaker, and then kicked in the abdomen by Niang.
Ms Ndiaye, who was said to be pregnant at the time of the incident, was hospitalized as a result, amidst fears of a risk of losing her baby.
The convicted MPs were first detained on December 15 on assault and battery charges, and their trial commenced on December 19th.
The prosecution had requested for two years in prison for them.
Ndiaye’s lawyer Baboucar Cissé, told the court during the trial that she fainted after the incident, noting that although she’d been released from hospital, she remained “in an extremely difficult situation,” according to reports.
The live televised brawl in the House came as tension mounts in the country, ahead of presidential elections slated for 2024.
Sall was first elected in 2012 for a seven-year term. He changed the constitution to reduce the number of years per term for president to five, before he was re-elected for a second and final term in 2019.
But despite the existence of a presidential term limit, there have been persistent rumor about Sall’s supposed intention to run for a third term. The 60-year-old leader has himself helped prolong the debate due to his silence on the issue.
The political tension began rising in the runup to legislative elections in July 2022, which saw the governing party lost its comfortable majority in the House, despite retaining control.
Lawyers for the two convicted lawmakers say they will appeal the ruling. The defence had tried and failed to stop the trial on grounds that the MPs enjoyed parliamentary immunity. The court overruled them.
The incident, to some, signifies a culture of violence against women in the country, while others read into it the powerful influence of religious leaders.