a February 1998 report, Amnesty International (AI) alleged that several mass graves
for victims of extrajudicial killings exist in Niaguis and at Niamalang bridge.
According to AI, an unknown number of civilians have been killed by civilian
authorities or soldiers and have been buried secretly in these mass graves
since the early 1990’s. There has been no independent confirmation of these
Sporadic fighting continued through 1999 in the Casamance area in the southern part of the country between the Government and the secessionist Movement of Democratic Forces in the Casamance (MFDC). In January the Government and the leadership of the MFDC began a new peace initiative with a meeting between President Diouf and MFDC head Abbe Augustine Diamacoune Senghor. The MFDC leadership then held a conference--the “days of reflection”--in Banjul, the Gambia, in June 1999 to develop a unified position for advancing the peace process.
In its annual report published in July 1999, African Assembly for the Defense of Human Rights (RADDHO - a local human rights organization) alleged that MFDC rebels were responsible for the widespread and indiscriminate use of land mines in the Casamance. According to RADDHO the rebels planted the mines in an effort to terrorize both the government security forces and the civilian population. Although it was difficult to determine the extent of their use in the Casamance, RADDHO claimed that up to 80 percent of the arable land in the areas of Ziguinchor, Sedhiou, Oussouy, and Bignona were unusable due to the land mines. RADDHO also estimated that between 1997 and 1998 land mines killed and injured some 500 civilians in the Casamance.
On 12 February 1999, the Government released 123 suspected MFDC members who had been detained in Dakar, Ziguinchor, and Kolda without trial, some for several years, on grounds of compromising or plotting against the security of the State. The courts ordered their release following the January 1999 meeting between President Diouf and MFDC leader Abbe Diamacoune, which was the beginning of an effort to establish a peace process in the Casamance. The MFDC had demanded the release of all political detainees in connection with the Casamance conflict as a condition for dialog. According to the AI report issued in June 1999, 110 suspected MFDC rebels remained without trial in prisons throughout the country; however, on 30 December 1999 the Government released 44 persons who had been detained in connection with the Casamance conflict.
The internal talks of the rebellion movement hosted in Banjul during June and July 1999, marked an historic turning point for the Casamance peace settlement process which seeks to end the conflict in this region. These talks and the end of the crisis in neighboring Guinea-Bissau have helped pave the way for direct peace negotiations between the GOS and the MFDC during late December 1999.
On 26 December 1999, the Government and MFDC leaders met in the Gambia to begin negotiations on the future of the Casamance. During these talks, the two parties agreed to an immediate ceasefire in the Casamance. The parties also agreed to meet face to face at least once a month to negotiate a peaceful future for the region. At year’s end, neither side had a concrete proposal to bring to the negotiating table; however, the parties developed a framework for discussion.
President Wade said he wanted to meet with rebel leaders to hammer out a broader peace agreement. But despite the truce, hard-core elements of the MFDC’s armed wing have continued to fight, even attempting to disrupt Senegal’s presidential election in February 2000. The militant wing of the MFDC is committed to independence at any cost.
To be continued……………
BY: SAIDINA ALIEU JARJOU
Alias Dr.ABS Taal Jr.