OPINION: CASSAMANCE THE UNTOLD STORY (Part.7)

Friday, July 28, 2017

Throughout 2002, MFDC gunmen or suspected MFDC gunmen committed numerous killings. For example, in March 2002 suspected MFDC insurgents attacked a group of civilian vehicles 4 kilometers from the town of Diouloulou, near the Gambian border in the Bignona region of the Casamance and killed seven civilians and wounded four. In a government military sweep following this attack, the military killed several suspected MFDC insurgents, although exact figures were not available. In October 2002 suspected MFDC gunmen opened fire on a taxi in Diabang killing three civilian passengers. Military authorities in the Casamance region made an effort during 2002 to reduce the number of human rights abuses committed by security forces under their command, and human rights NGOs confirmed that there were significantly fewer complaints of arbitrary arrests, lengthy detention, and abuse during detention; however, there were no statistics available at year’s end. At times, usually during sweeps for MFDC rebels, the security forces temporarily restricted access to the Casamance region or areas within it. The security forces also regularly maintained checkpoints in the Ziguinchor region to screen for MFDC rebels and arms transports. Security forces generally allowed travelers to proceed after checking documents and searching vehicles.

According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), during the first 2 weeks of May 2002, approximately 2,000 civilians fled the country to the Gambia following clashes between government security forces and MFDC rebels in the Bignona area of northwestern Casamance. The UNHCR reported that 70 percent of these refugees returned to their villages by early June 2002. The numbers of refugees outside the country fluctuated according to the level of violence in the Casamance region; at year’s end, it was estimated that several thousand refugees remained outside the country, mostly in the Gambia and Guinea-Bissau. A UNHCR census in January 2002 counted 7,000 Senegalese refugees living in the north of Guinea-Bissau.

As of 2002 Secretary-general of the MFDC Augustin Diamacoune Senghor was estimated to have some 2,300 troops under his command.

On 26 May 2003 separatist rebels in Casamance announced the death of Sidi Badji, a hardline leader who had held out against any compromise with the government on Dakar. The Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC) has confirmed the death of Badji at the age of about 83. Despite his advancing years, Badji had remained, at least nominally, the head of the MFDC’s military wing and commander-in-chief of its guerrilla army. Badji and his supporters opposed the softer line taken by MFDC’s veteran President, Augustin Diamacoune Senghor, a Roman Catholic priest who had shown a willingness to settle for a modest degree of autonomy for Casamance. Over the past two years there had been a concerted campaign by local non-governmental organisations and other would-be peacemakers to improve relations between Diamacoune and Badji and to send an unequivocal message of peace to MFDC combatants in the bush.

For the first time in a number of years, by January 2004 there were reasonable expectations for peace in the Casamance, as a result of calls for peace from MFDC members at their annual conference in October 2003. The Government of Senegal and one of the three armed groups agreed to a timeline for pacifying the northern part of the Casamance between Gambia and the city of Ziguinchor. The government is also accelerating efforts to re-establish “normal” economic and social life to provide an alternative to the rebellion. In addition to the prolonged insurgency, armed bandits and landmines present a threat in rural areas.

Up to 15,000 displaced people awere expected to return to their home villages in Senegal’s southern Casamance province during 2004 as a low-level insurgency that had gone on for two decades petered out, but little was being done by the international community to assist them. In January 2004 Refugees International said over 50,000 people had been displaced from their homes as a result of a rebellion by separatist guerillas in the narrrow strip of swampy forested land bounded to the north by Gambia and to the south by Guinea-Bissau. Refugees International said in a statement that the Association of Young Farmers in Casamance (AJAC APREN) expected 10,000 to 15,000 displaced people to return to their home villages in 2004.

To be continued…………

 

By: Saidina Alieu Jarjou

Blogger/ Activist

www.jarjou.blogspot.com

Source: Picture: Saidina Alieu Jarjou