Oct 13, 2010, 12:37 PM
History has its twists and turns. It is therefore important for political leaders to keep track of each state of development of the historical chain in order to have the raw material for policy formulation.
The issue of Casamance and State security were fundamental in the discussion between President Wade and President Jammeh. It is therefore important to indicate how PDOIS would have addressed this matter if it were mandated to manage the affairs of the country, either directly or as a partner in a United Front.
The intensification of the Casamance conflict is four years older than PDOIS. The MFDC gained strength and exposure in 1982 as a movement for the Independence of Casamance, four years before the birth of PDOIS.
However, since 1986 PDOIS made it her primary preoccupation to focus on the crisis in Casamance and had several interviews with Reverend Diamacoune Senghore between 1987 and 1994 and gave a vivid picture of his conceptions and strategies as the initial ideologue of the movement.
Even though he was initially sidelined after the talks in Banjul in 1999, Reverend Diamacoune Senghore was the inspirer of the movement. He utilised historical arguments to justify the struggle for the Independence of Casamance. Scholars should have taken him seriously and interrogate his thesis so as to formulate a correct policy that would have prevented the crisis from flaring out of proportion,.
The decision of the OAU to establish the geo-political boundaries of new African States on the basis of recognised colonial borders was raised directly for him to consider. He was very receptive to rigorous debates.
During that period, we recommended to the Government of President Diouf to engage Rev. Diamacoune by calling for a National Conference to enable historians, political scientists and diplomats to interrogate the historical justification for unity or separation on the basis of the OAU resolution and then establish concrete facts to back one notion or the other.
This would have provided the raw material to shape Senegalese National Policy on Casamance.
The findings would have informed the Senegalese government to know whether it was best to propose a Federal, Confederal or Regional blueprint to solve the problem in Casamance. Unfortunately, the military option of quashing the rebellion was put above the diplomatic option.
The intensification of the war led to refugees fleeing the Casamance to either Bissau or the Gambia. During the existence of the SeneGambia Confederation, ex opposition leader Wade and Kukoi Samba Sanyang were constantly accused by the Gambian and Senegalese Governments of relying on the support of the Libyan Government t to meddle in Casamance and destabilise the two governments, under Jawara and Diouf , respectively. The Senegambia Confederation collapsed like a house of cards in 1989. Soon after that President Diouf started to have problems with Mauritania and Guinea Bissau. During the Mauritania - Senegal crisis, it was promoted that the Casamance rebels were receiving arms from Mauritania through the Gambia. During the cold relation between Senegal and Guinea Bissau, it was promoted that the Bissau armed forces had the policy of supplying the Casamance rebels with arms. The Senegalese Government increasingly distanced itself from Jawara’s Government and showed no sympathy when it was overthrown in 1994.
The Casamance rebellion centred mainly near Guinea Bissau and landmines were planted everywhere. The Senegalese Armed forces considered the Bissau armed forces to be the major ally of the rebellion in Casamance. This notion became manifest on 7th June 1998 when President Vierra dismissed General Ansumana Manneh, thus provoking a civil war in Guinea Bissau.
Joof’s Government sent 1,200 troops and Guinea under Lansana Conte sent 4,000 troops to Bissau to assist President Vierra.
It was reported that the Casamance rebels did cross over to Bissau to give support to Ansumana Manneh. In fact, many analysts have concluded that the Senegalese Government intervened on the side of Nino Vierra because of its conviction that the Guinean Military under Ansumana Manneh was providing safe haven and weapons to the Casamance rebels. It is claimed that the landmines received from external sources made it impossible to ‘farm on up to 80 percent of the arable land in the areas of Ziguinchor, Sedhiou, Oussouy, and Bignona.”RAHDO
Despite the intervention of the Guinean and Senegalese military, a shaky cease fire accord was signed in November 1998. It was clear that President Vierra would not be able to serve as an ally to make Bissau a no go area for the Casamance combatants.
The Senegalese Government had to change its strategy after the first ceasefire accord in November 1998. It promoted the policy of rapprochement with the combatants.
For example, “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 dialogue.”
The strategy to use Guinea Bissau as an ally to wage an onslaught against the Casamance combatants was reduced to thin air when the forces led by Ansumana Manneh struck on May 6 1999 to capture Bissau and forced Vierra to flee for safety.
Having lost lives and resources on a failed expedition in Bissau, President Joof had to have something to offer the Senegalese people during the 2000 Presidential elections. It is no surprise that he allowed the Government of the Gambia to host summits to enable the different factions in Casamance to settle their differences and come up with a common negotiating position.
The intra-MFDC talks started in June 1999 just after the end of the crisis in Gunea Bissau. It prepared the way for negotiations between the MFDC and the Government of Senegal. Unfortunately, the Summit that was designed to enable the MFDC leadership to come up with a common position was boycotted by some belonging to the civil and military leadership. They could never work out a common position. Hence when they met the Senegalese government on 26 December 1999, they could only agree on terms for a cease fire and to meet periodically to further discuss the future of Casamance.
Many people had thought that MFDC had a political and military wing with a core that had already drawn up a plan on the future of Casamance. What became evident was division among different interest groups. Even Rev Diamacoune Senghore was isolated during the talks. Hence the MFDC emerged from the talks without any prominent personality to carry on with the diplomatic struggle to shape the future of Casamance. The forces were prepared for war but they were not prepared for the political and diplomatic battle for peace, reconciliation, institution building and reconstruction.
Hence after the initiative launched by President Joof, the Combatants went back into the bush and attempted even to disrupt the February 2000 elections in Senegal. In 2000 both Senegal and Guinea Bissau had new Presidents. President Wade won in Senegal and President Kumba Yala won in Guinea Bissau.
President Wade dissociated himself from all talks in Banjul and offered to meet the leaders of the combatants who continued their attacks. Two peace agreements were signed between MFDC and Wade’s Government but to no avail. Rev. Diamacoune Senghore had met and signed agreement with the Government. Civil society had been campaigning against landmines, small fire arms and for peace in Casamance. The Senegalese Government had tried to give the impression that normal civil, political and economic life had resumed in the Casamance, but war still ravages lives and properties.
Many refugees in the Gambia and Guinea Bissau are still unable to go home. Casamance still remains a country with two faces; the face of war and that of normalcy. Some are armed combatants trying to have a say through the barrel of the gun and others are Councilors and members of Parliament trying to win seats through the ballot.
It is twelve years after the Senegalese Government and the MFDC leadership met in Banjul to discuss the future of Casamance. That future is still hanging on the balance of probabilities.
President Wade has asked President Jammeh for help. What he should understand is that both Presidents need help. The Gambia Government is just skilful in putting up a brave face. President Jammeh should have been very frank with President Wade by telling him that they both need help.
Both Governments need help.
We have printed in black that a civil war in Casamance had led to bullets flying over roof tops in The Foni Brefet District in October 2010. Many of these combatants deserted and found refuge in the Gambia . Many people were scared to move about in the area of fighting in Casamance for fear of running into rebel ambush or caught in cross fire. They described the situation as dangerous for both cross border traders and cattle herders that always use the bushes for rearing their ruminants.
Eye witness accounts have revealed that some arms and ammunitions have been discovered in the bushes behind Aslem village near Sutusinjang in Foni Brefet District. These weapons were found scattered near the garden of the Sutusinjang women.
A younman from Sutusinjang village, went to the bushes behind Aslem village to collect herbal roots and leaves and came across the scattered piles of different weapons and their ammunition suspected to be left behind by fleeing armed combatants during the fight between two factions in early October.
They found both spent and unused ammunitions scattered all over the place, thus implying that combat might have taken place there. The villagers listed the weapons found as five (5) AK 47 assault rifles, five (5) Rocket Propel Grenades (RPG), seven (7) Hand Grenades, two (2) Machine Guns, several magazines and other weapons they could not identify. They added that heaps of cartridges were also found near the two machine guns which were on stands.
The villagers said they have contacted the Bullock Military Post which sent soldiers to collect the arms and ammunitions.
The Sutusinjang villagers expressed worry that their surrounding is littered with weapons which may pose a threat to their lives, especially the women in the gardens and also the children who go out to the bush to hunt game. They explained that they are scared to go out to the fields because of these weapons which might cause accidents. They said there may be more weapons scattered in the bushes that borders their village to Casamance.
Newpaper report by Foroyaa confirmed that the Gambia Armed Forces (GAF) PRO did corroborate the discovery of arms and ammunitions within the immediate border villages in Foni Brefet. He said recently several arms and ammunitions were discovered and among them AK47 Assault Rifles, RPG Shells and Grenades.
He told Foroyaa that these weapons were left by rebels fleeing into the Gambia after the fighting between two rival factions. He said GAF personnel monitored the situation which has led to the arrest of seventeen rebels with arms who were arraigned before the court, charged with illegal possession of fire arms and illegal entry into the Gambia.
The PRO called on the border villagers to report any suspicious object around their area to the authorities. He warned them not to touch or go near any item that they might come across in the bushes.
In our view, there are different factions in the Casamance crisis. Some factions have signed peace with the Senegalese Government others are adversaries. Alexandra Gibba and others were eventually detained because they fell out with the Gambia Government. Many members of some factions of the MFDC have been detained and prosecuted in the Gambia. Even logic would permit the conclusion that Gambia Government also has some adversaries in Casamance.
Hence both governments should be concerned on how to bring peace in Casamance.
Lastly, President Jammeh did tell President Wade that the Gambia is a no go area for Senegalese dissidents. They would either be handed over or prosecuted and locked up.President Wade did say that the media in Senegal even interview dissidents and attack him from all angles. He said in his country there are radio and television stations that he could no longer control even if they insult him, that he is even in support of a law which will make it impossible to imprison journalists. He said that he could send Gambian dissidents out of Senegal to a third country if they are exposed but he cannot extradite anyone.. President Jammeh had to react by saying that in his country journalists could also say anything. However the case of Dodou Sanneh is still in court. There is no private TV or Radio station which could even promote divergent political views.
Hence there was need for the two heads of state not only to talk about dissidents but also standards of governance. They both need to become a part of the Africa Peer Review mechanism which any government which we are a part of would belong to, so that standards of best practice in democratic governance would be outlined and bi lateral mechanisms established to monitor compliance. Adherence to democratic governance is the best way to eradicate dissidents.
THE WAY FORWARD
The problem in Casamance is compounded by the fact that the MFDC is not operating as a Liberation movement with a political and military wing and a clear chain of command allowing the political leadership to exercise governance over the military wing. A liberation movement must have a short term, medium term, and long term programme, which it transforms into positions for negotiation. Its military action is only designed to get its adversary to accept to sit down to negotiate a political settlement.
If President Wade is to address the Casamance crisis, he must first call a National Conference of all statkeholders in Casamance to discuss the future of Casamance including the way to handle the armed rebellion. The National Conference would be mandated to recommend civil, political, economic social, cultural and ecological programmes that ensure greater liberty and prosperity for the people in Casamance. After the Conference a council of wise men and women comprising prominent and respectable people in Casamance should be mandated by the Conference to meet the leaders of the fighting factions to discuss how their groups could be given resources to become political parties to contest elections and pursue their programmes by political means. The Government of Senegal would give absolute commitment to implement the resolutions of the National Conference. Any initiative short of this would be futile.