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Senegal – Casamance rebels declare ceasefire


Senegal’s Casamance MFDC rebels declare a ceasefire

Senegalese army (file photo) The army has been battling the rebels for more than 30 years

A top Senegalese rebel leader has declared a unilateral ceasefire, raising hopes of ending one of West Africa’s longest-running conflicts.

Salif Sadio said he wanted to give the peace process initiated by President Macky Sall a chance.

Mr Sadio leads a rebel MFDC faction fighting for the southern Casamance region’s independence since 1982.

A number of peace deals and ceasefires agreed in the past have failed to end the violence.

Thousands of people have been killed in the low-level conflict.

Tourist industry

Mr Sadio told a local radio station that his decision to declare a ceasefire followed talks between the government and his Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC) group in Italy.

Both sides had agreed at the meeting to take steps to facilitate the peace process and end the suffering of people, correspondents say.

 A mine clearing expert in  Casamance (30 May 2011)  The government has been trying to clear the region of landmines

The rebels target the army and plant landmines in a region which once had a thriving tourist industry because of its beaches.

In May 2013, 11 demining experts hostage were taken hostage by the rebels. They were released about two months later.

A rival MFDC group signed a peace pact with the government in 2004.

Conflict first broke out over claims by the region’s people that they were being marginalised by the Wolof, Senegal’s main ethnic group.

Casamance, which is separated from the rest of Senegal by The Gambia, is home to numerous ethnic groups, including many Christians, while northern areas are dominated by three, largely Muslim communities.



Sant’Egidio mediating in Senegal’s Casamance conflict



Paulin Maurice Toupane, Intern, Conflict Prevention and Risk Analysis Division, ISS Pretoria

The resolution of the crisis in the Casamance, Senegal, that has been on hold since the ceasefire of 2005, has taken a new turn. Salif Sadio, leader of the northern faction of the armed branch of the Movement des forces démocratiques de la Casamance (Movement of the Democratic Forces of Casamance, MFDC), had appealed for dialogue on 1 June 2012. In an answer to that appeal, President Macky Sall, in a statement at the decentralised Council of Ministers meeting held in Ziguinchor on 27 June, pledged to begin talks with Sadio and the other warlords of the MFDC.

Indeed, since Macky Sall became president, there have been new developments both within the MFDC factions and in the attitude of the Senegalese government towards the insurgency, which wants the independence or autonomy of Casamance. ‘I have read the press release issued by Salif Sadio,’ said President Sall, ‘and I believe we are in a position to begin an open and frank dialogue with him and the northern front fighters.’

In his reaction to the President’s overtures, Sadio, in a statement reported by Radio France Internationale on 4 July 2012, said he would like to ‘invite him to hold talks outside Africa under the auspices of the Community of Sant’Egidio’. Then a press release issued by the Community of Sant’Egidio on 17 October announced that delegations of the Senegalese government and the northern faction of the MFDC ‘mandated by Salif Sadio’ had met in Rome on 13 and 14 October 2012.

Even though the restoration of peace may still seem remote, this meeting raised hopes for a resolution of a crisis that has existed since 1982. The main concern is whether this initiative, which is one of many, will succeed in creating the conditions for a lasting peace.

It is worth mentioning some of the developments that have taken place recently. As far as the MFDC is concerned, this is actually the first time that Sadio, one of the most radical and best-armed rebel leaders, has said that he is willing to hold talks. It is also the first time that all the MFDC warlords are willing to negotiate. (The armed branch of the MFDC is divided into a northern front led by Sadio’s faction and a southern front made up of two factions, that of César Atoute Badiate and that of Ousmane Gnantang Diatta.)

Finally, the different factions are trying to draw closer to each other so that they can speak with one voice. In the south, according to media sources, Badiate and Diatta are once again talking to each other. In the north, Sadio, who considers himself the sole representative of the MFDC, still has to be persuaded to open talks with the other factions. Several peace agreements were signed in the past between Senegal and the MFDC, but none has so far been supported by all the armed factions.

The government has also changed tactics. In 2000, former President Abdoulaye Wade promised to ‘resolve the Casamance issue in 100 days’. Twelve years later, Casamance is still in a ‘neither-peace-nor-war’ situation. President Sall, who claims that ‘the restoration of peace in the southern region is still close to his heart’, has made his first official visit to the Gambia’s President Yaya Jammeh. The Gambia, which many believe supports and provides a rear base for Sadio’s northern faction, has a major role to play in the resolution of this crisis.

Thus, by drawing closer to Banjul, Senegal is trying to obtain the support of President Jammeh, who stated on 15 April 2012 that he would do his best to help in having peace restored in Casamance. The two countries also signed an agreement to build a bridge to make Casamance more accessible.

Further, Senegal seems to have set a priority on the peaceful settlement of the conflict. The government, which considers the Casamance crisis an internal matter, has always refused to internationalise the conflict. However, it has to clearly define a crisis resolution road map and a socioeconomic development policy for the region; in short, anything that could facilitate the settlement of the crisis.

The mediation by Sant’Egidio, which states that it is ‘fully prepared to do everything to bring about the dialogue that will help to end the situation in Casamance’, is a source of hope for many reasons. As a Christian organisation founded in 1968 by Andréa Ricardi, the community engages in the peaceful resolution of conflicts, among other things. Its methods and status have enabled it to engage in successful mediation efforts in Mozambique, Guatemala, Kosovo and Liberia, among others. Its contribution, therefore, is welcome at a time of deadlocked negotiations amid a crisis of confidence, not only between the government and the MFDC, but also between these two actors and the neighbouring countries.

Perceived as being neutral and enjoying the confidence of the military factions, Sant’Egidio should start by bringing the military factions and political wings of the MFDC together before the negotiations begin. Indeed, negotiating with one or two rebel leaders is not the same as negotiating with the MFDC. In fact, Badiate said in early October: ‘I am not against the choice of Sant’Egidio to broker our talks with Senegal. However, it is necessary first to organise a meeting between the different factions of the movement, bring everybody together so that we can talk the same language, choose our representatives on a consensual basis and establish a platform. Otherwise, holding a meeting in Rome for instance will serve no purpose. If the mediator insists, we will still go for a change of air.’

The MFDC had broken up after the death of its charismatic leader Father Augustin Diamacoune Senghor. It is now composed of several warlords and political leaders, with the armed wing sometimes acting independently from the political wing. Further, the reaction of the MFDC’s Cercle des Intellectuels et Universitaires, a faction of the political wing which in a press release issued on 23 October 2012 rejected the mediation by Sant’Egidio and claimed that Sadio ‘is not the leader of the MFDC’, reveals the complexity of the Casamance issue in which so many actors are involved.

Despite these challenges, the context is still favourable to dialogue and the conditions seem to be there for the resolution of this thirty-year-old crisis. However, three things should be taken into account in the current efforts: firstly, the MFDC should develop a common platform for expressing its claims and join the efforts towards a peaceful resolution of the conflict. Secondly, the Senegalese government should clearly define a crisis resolution road map and a socioeconomic development plan for the region, in consultation with the stakeholders in Casamance. Finally, Sant’Egidio should take into account the complexity of the issue and bring together the political and military wings of the MFDC before opening negotiations with the government of Senegal.


Will Senegal’s election on 25th be a setback for democracy

Reuters Africa

By Pascal Fletcher

DAKAR (Reuters) – Asked what might happen if Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade is declared winner of the West African country’s elections, student Nando da Silva mouths the sound of an explosion: “Boom!”

President Abdoulaye Wade

Casting his first round ballot last month in Grand Yoff, a dusty Dakar suburb which is a labyrinth of sandy streets and crowded homes, da Silva is one of many young Senegalese who want to see an end to the octogenarian president’s 12-year rule.

“African leaders like politics … khaliss,” the 19-year-old adds with an impish grin, using the local Wolof language term for money and rubbing his thumb and finger together to emphasis how high political office brings enrichment for a few.

The clamour for change and renewal in one of Africa’s most stable states is colliding headlong with Wade’s disputed bid for a third term, setting up a ballot-box battle many see as a test for electoral democracy in the world’s poorest continent.

A surprisingly peaceful February 26 first round vote followed violent anti-Wade protests in the election run-up that killed at least six people. The contest is headed for a deciding second round run-off on March 25 between frontrunner Wade, 85, and his former prime minister Macky Sall, 50.

Inside and outside Africa, Senegal’s election is being closely scrutinized to see whether it upholds and advances a positive spread of multi-party political pluralism since the end of the Cold War more than two decades ago, or whether it will exacerbate what many are calling a “democratic recession”. Read more…

Senegal: is Wade heading for defeat?



Abdoulaye Wade failed to get anywhere near the 50% threshold for first ballot victory in Senegal’s 26 February presidential election, which would have given the 85 year-old a fresh seven year term of office.

He now faces a tough run-off, expected on 18 March, against his former protégé Macky Sall. Some pundits are already writing Wade’s political obituary, though he has dominated Senegalese politics since his election in 2000.

Barely half the electorate voted in the February first round, compared with a 70.5% turnout in the 2007 election, which Wade won outright. So the president’s campaign team will be working hard to mobilize the many voters who stayed at home this time.

Senegal’s veteran head of state has remarkable self-belief and the skills of a political deal-maker who has staged comebacks before. His capacity to turn the race around should not be dismissed and the outcome of the second round is not a foregone conclusion. But there is a real chance that Wade could be defeated. And in stark contrast with Côte d’Ivoire’s former head of state Laurent Gbagbo, Wade’s campaign team have stated that the president will accept the run-off result.

Wade was doubly unlucky in the first round: he fell far short of the winning post, with just 34.8% of the vote, according to official provisional results, and the other candidate who qualified for the second round was Macky Sall. ‘Macky’ has been the name so often cited on the streets of Dakar as the one figure with the political profile and campaign skills to defeat the president.  Read more…

Senegal: prospects poor for Wade third term

Mail and Guardian

Abdoulaye Wade, one of Africa’s oldest leaders, is facing the prospect of defeat in Senegal after an election that protesters say he should never have been allowed to contest.

The 85-year-old had been confident of gaining enough votes in the first round to secure an outright victory.

But Wade has admitted he will fall short of the required 50% majority. He is now likely to be challenged by Macky Sall, 50, his former prime minister.

Wade’s best chance of clinging to power may have gone. In the first round the opposition was split between 13 candidates. They are likely to unite behind one in the runoff.

Senegal’s newspapers on Tuesday ran headlines such as: “It’s finished,” “Wade suddenly becomes a lamb!” and “It feels like the end!”

Unusual unrest
Critics such as the singer Youssou N’Dour have argued that the constitution should bar Wade, who has been in power for the past 12 years, from seeking a third term. He brushed off the complaint, triggering street protests in which at least six people died, a shock in the usually stable west African state.  Read more…

Senegal: second round of voting on the cards according to Wade aide

Reuters Africa

By Bate Felix

DAKAR (Reuters) – Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade faces a tough presidential election run-off against his nearest rival after a campaign aide said on Tuesday that partial results ruled out a clear first-round victory.

President Wade

Wade’s bid for a third term at the age of 85 has sparked deadly street protests in the usually peaceful West African state, though voting on Sunday was calm and well-organised. Critics have said the constitution bans Wade, who has been in power for the last 12 years, from seeking a third term, a charge he has brushed off.

With results from around half the country’s polling stations in, he was on 32 percent, ahead of former ally Macky Sall on around 25 percent but still well short of the 50 percent required for outright victory.

With full results still unavailable, representatives from the European Union and the United States said they thought a first-round victory was increasingly improbable.

“The results that we have clearly indicate that there will be a second round. We don’t need to be told it,” Wade campaign spokesman Amadou Sall told Reuters by telephone.

“We voted peacefully, with dignity and in complete transparency. We don’t need to be taught any lessons – we know how to count.”  Read more…